Cameroon: Deplorable living conditions for CAR refugees

Geneva / Yaoundé, 25 February 2014 - As fighting in the Central African Republic (CAR) continues, thousands of refugees who fled the country have arrived in Cameroon and now lack clean water, decent shelter and food, warned the medical-humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). MSF calls all humanitarian actors to mobilise quickly to provide assistance to the refugees.

An estimated 22,000 Central Africans have fled to Cameroon since the beginning of the year. These civilians have had no choice but to escape the violence in their country. In Garoua-Boulaï, a small town in eastern Cameroon, thousands of people are living under trees and are only able to rely on the solidarity of the local community there to feed and clothe themselves. "People who are in Garoua-Boulaï and other locations we visited are living in unacceptable conditions," says Jon Irwin, Head of Mission for MSF in Cameroon.

Children suffering from malnutrition
In Garoua-Boulaï, emergency medical aid is provided in the Pont-Bascule site. MSF is also present in the district hospital and carries out 800 medical consultations per week. One in five children suffers from malnutrition. In addition to providing medical care, MSF has also built latrines and showers, provided access to drinking water and distributed blankets and soap to 4,000 refugees.

In Mborguéné transit camp, some 45 km from Garoua-Boulaï, a health centre has been set up which will be able to cover the medical needs of 10,000 refugees. South of Garoua-Boulaï, new groups of people are still crossing the border from CAR. The remote area where they have settled will be unreachable during the rainy season. The transfer of refugees from this zone to camps which would ensure their security and the delivery of assistance should be considered an urgent next step.

“Left to fend for themselves”
"When our teams were informed of groups of refugees scattered along the border with CAR, we immediately set up a mobile clinic in Mboy. Until that point, they had not received any support and had been left to fend for themselves, " said Irwin.

"All refugees today in Cameroon have already suffered too much and they are extremely vulnerable,” said Mariano Lugli Assistant Director of Operations who just returned from Cameroon. “As the situation in CAR deteriorates, more and more people are arriving in Cameroon. It is urgent that all humanitarian actors act with immediate effect. These refugees need security, food, shelter, access to drinking water and emergency medical care”.

MSF has been present in Cameroon since 1984. Since February 2014, the medical-humanitarian organisation has deployed emergency teams in the east, to provide primary medical care to refugees through collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

MSF is also providing assistance to refugees in Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo.

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