GARUA BOULAI, EASTERN CAMEROON - Thousands of people continue to flee violence in the troubled Central African Republic and the United Nations says many lack access to humanitarian care. Its response plan requesting $515 million launched in January is barely 10 percent funded.
Hundreds of Central Africans sing in the Cameroon border town of Garoua Boulai to officially welcome 30 of their fellow citizens who crossed over from the C.A.R. to Cameroon within the past week.
It has become a weekly event to welcome people fleeing the carnage and socially integrate them into their community or reunite them with family members.
Among the newly arrived is 37-year-old Pierre Magnou. He said he and his family were targeted by armed gangs firing automatic weapons and burning houses in areas of the C.A.R capital, Bangui, two weeks ago.
He said in October 2017, he, his wife, and two children returned from Congo where they were in exile and settled in their PK5 Muslim-dominated neighborhood, thinking peace had returned.
But he said bloody conflicts between Muslim Seleka fighters, Christian anti-Balakas and some segments of the population continue in his country.
Not wanting to live in uncertainty, he said they decided to flee until the U.N. peace mission completes what he said is an unending task of bringing peace.
The downward spiral
The Central African Republic descended into bloodshed after longtime leader Francois Bozize was overthrown in 2013 by a predominantly Muslim rebel alliance called the Seleka. Christian militias called the anti-Balaka emerged in response, accelerating a cycle of sectarian violence.
In February 2016, Faustin-Archange Touadera, who promised to bring peace in the troubled nation, was elected president.
C.A.R. minister of humanitarian activities Virginie Baikoua visited Cameroon last week. She said violence has continued because it is hard to bring the various armed factions together for true dialogue.
She said one of the most serious problems they have is the circulation of arms. Young people need a lot of education to understand that they are strong enough to contribute to the development of their country by working, not killing, she added.
U.N. coordinator for humanitarian affairs for the C.A.R. Najad Rochdi said the number of people needing urgent assistance has increased dramatically this year due to the resurgence of violence.
"One quarter of the population is in a situation of vulnerability, fragility, and therefore, it is very easy for them to be recruited by either the armed groups or the criminal gangs," she said. "Eighteen percent of children under five are dying. That is 18 percent of the future generation of Central Africans who today are not given the chance to live.Not even to go to school, just to live, which is the basic right of a human being."
She said 2.5 million C.A.R. residents are in dire need of humanitarian assistance.