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More than 36,000 refugee children from the Central African Republic (CAR) have entered Cameroon and many of them are in dire need of nutrition and health care, says humanitarian organisation Plan International.
Children, some of whom are unaccompanied, have battled starvation, diseases and attacks on their way to Cameroon as they fled the ongoing brutal violence in the CAR.
“A number of children arriving at the border are on the brink of death with severe malnutrition and medical complications. The humanitarian agencies on the ground are stretched to their capacities as there are hundreds who need urgent attention,” said Famari Barro, Country Director of Plan in Cameroon.
According to UNHCR – the UN Refugee Agency, there are nearly 80,000 CAR refugees who have arrived in Cameroon since the escalation of violence in the country in December 2013. Almost half of them are children, including teenage mothers with young babies.
“During the last six weeks, we have received nearly 200 severely malnourished children suffering from diseases such as tuberculosis, diarrhoea, anaemia and pneumonia. Out of these, 25 children have died,” said Wassou Madeleine, who heads an 11-bed malnutrition care centre in a government hospital in Batouri in the East region of Cameroon.
Every week up to 1000 refugees are arriving at the 12 entry points to Cameroon. The new arrivals are being accommodated in five sites across the northern and eastern parts of the country. Besides, a significant number of refugees are staying with host families. As a result, local communities have also come under considerable strain.
Plan is among the main humanitarian agencies responding to the refugee situation in Cameroon. The organisation has launched a two-year emergency response with the initial phase focusing on most urgent needs of refugees, particularly children.
“Many children, including teenage mothers, have been traumatised by the horrors of extreme violence,” said Henri-Noel Tatangang, Plan’s emergency specialist for West Africa region.
“Our field workers have come across harrowing stories of refugee children who have lost their parents and mothers who have witnessed barbaric killing of their partners and family members.”
Kadidja, a 15-year-old CAR refugee currently sheltering in Gbiti, said, “I saw people being killed. I also saw children die along the way as I walked through the forest with my young baby. I was terrified.”
The humanitarian agencies responding to the crisis are facing scarcity of resources even as the number of refugees continues to grow.
“The sheer scale of CAR humanitarian crisis is overwhelming the aid agencies. Despite limited resources we are working flat out to reach every single child in need,” said Mr Tatangang.
(Plan emergency experts and field staff are available for media interviews.)
- Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest children's development organisations. Plan works in 50 developing countries across Africa, Asia and the Americas to promote child rights and lift millions of children out of poverty. Plan is independent, with no religious, political or governmental affiliations.
- Plan has been working in Cameroon since 1996, helping poor children to access their rights to education, health, sanitation and protection. The organisation has nearly 28,000 sponsored children spread over 842 communities across the country.
- According to UNHCR estimates, as of end of April 2014, there were nearly 80,000 CAR refugees in Cameroon. Thousands of them are living in 5 refugee sites spread across the country: Gado, Lolo and Mbile in the East region; and Borgop and Ngam in the Adamawa region in the northern part of Cameroon.
- Additionally, about 840,000 people also remain displaced inside CAR.
- According to the UNHCR, as of April 28, 2014, out of the arrivals so far, 12 782 are children between the ages of 0-4, 15 949 are children between the ages of 5-11 and 7 742 are children between the ages of 12-17.
Jaire Moutcheu (in Yaoundé)
PR & Communications Advisor
Plan Cameroon - Country Office
Mobile: +237 777 660 377
Florence Cisse (in Dakar)
Regional Media Specialist, West Africa
Mobile: +221 777 403 600+221 777 403 600
Jane Labous (in London)
Press Officer, Africa
Plan International Headquarters
Mobile: +44 (0) 7540 048 494+44 (0) 7540 048 494+44 (0) 7540 048 494