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Plan International: Thousands of Central African Republic Refugee Children in Dire Need in Cameroon

Refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon.
Refugees from the Central African Republic in Cameroon.
May 13, 2014

YAOUNDE - 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 Plan International.

Children, some of whom are unaccompanied, have battled starvation, disease, 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, diarrhea, anemia and pneumonia. Out of these, 25 children have died,” said Wassou Madeleine, who heads an 11-bed malnutrition care center in a government hospital in Batouri in the East region of Cameroon.

Every week, up to 1,000 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. 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 organization 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 traumatized 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.

About Plan International USA

Plan International USA is part of the Plan International Federation, a global organization that works side by side with communities in 50 developing countries to end the cycle of poverty for children and their families. Plan works at the community level to develop customized solutions and ensure long-term sustainability. Our solutions are designed up-front to be owned by communities for generations to come and range from clean water and healthcare programs to education projects and child protection initiatives. For more information, please visit www.PlanUSA.org.

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