Refugees started arriving at the Catholic mission on September 8. A week later there were already 15,000 here. Since the escalation of violence between the Séléka and ‘anti-Balaka’ militia, refugees have been arriving every day. According to Caritas [a Catholic relief organisation], there are around 39,000 displaced persons contained in a four hectare area, with the majority of them being women and children.
The sanitary conditions are extremely poor, and a lot of the refugees are living with cattle they brought here. Until mid-September, most refugees had no shelter and were left completely exposed to the elements. Now, the Red Cross and UNICEF have brought tarps with which refugees have built tents, and toilet facilities have been installed. The premises of the Catholic mission here have been left at their disposal. Some have even taken refuge in the pig pen! These are desperate people seeking refuge from the current instability of the region.
“Famine is a serious threat at the moment”
The security situation is dire. Not a day goes by without someone being killed. Most men refuse to leave the area for fear of being kidnapped by the Séléka and being accused of being ‘anti-Balaka’ members. So mostly it's the women who leave the zone in hope of finding food and supplies, but they end up having to pay bribes on their way. And as agriculture and harvesting have been interrupted by the conflict, famine is a serious threat at the moment. We have made requests to the FAO [the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] for basic supplies.
On a visit here three days ago, Prime Minister Nicolas Tiangaye pledged to clear out Séléka rebels and strengthen FOMAC forces. I hope with all my heart that he will keep his promise. Because if he doesn't, the situation will become catastrophic.