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Conflict in the CAR Turns Lives of Mothers and Children Upside-Down

Kadidja, 15, and her 2-year-old malnourished daughter, Mariama, share a tent with five other families.
Kadidja, 15, and her 2-year-old malnourished daughter, Mariama, share a tent with five other families.
June 19, 2014
Plan International is working to bring relief to refugees in Cameroon.

A young refugee mother from the Central African Republic (CAR) is now depending on the support of Plan International USA to get through a time of uncertainty, turmoil, and heartache.

Kadidja, 15, is one of tens of thousands of refugees who fled to Cameroon to escape the bloody violence in CAR. Along with her 2-year-old daughter, Mariama, she trekked for four months to escape the fighting, completing the arduous journey of more than 600 kilometers amid violence, starvation, and a real threat of death.

“My daughter and I sometimes went without food in the forest for up to six days,” she said. “I saw many children die along the way. I was terrified and prayed that mine [wouldn’t] die as well.”

Kadidja fled CAR to escape violence that has flared over recent months. Though conflict has been ongoing since 2006 in CAR, the recent increase in widespread violence has driven thousands from the country.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees UNHCR, almost 350,000 people from CAR have fled the country, including over 184,000 who crossed into Cameroon. These refugees are escaping communal violence and “banditry” in their home areas. Of those, over half are children, including teenage mothers. The majority of them walked for several months in extreme conditions, arriving in Cameroon totally exhausted and, in many cases, weakened by illnesses from the arduous journey. Many young mothers have sick or malnourished children who need care and attention.

Mariama was brought to a hospital in Batouri, Cameroon where she was diagnosed with severe malnutrition compounded with diarrhea. She is currently undergoing therapeutic treatment.

Kadidja, living in a tent set up in the hospital compound, shares her living space with five other families.

“I don’t have many friends here,” she said. “I just want to go home to be with my father and my husband. But, I am afraid of what will happen [when I] get back there. “

Once Mariama recovers, Kadidja will return to a refugee transit center, from where she will be taken to a refugee site in the east region of Cameroon.

Plan is working to ensure mothers like Kadidja and children like Mariama are cared for. It is currently responding to the refugee crisis across all five sites in Cameroon.

Plan’s relief work was launched in early May with the distribution of first aid items and medicine at a health center assisting refugees in the east region. Additionally, hygiene kits containing bars of soap, sanitary towels for women, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and a plastic bucket have been distributed to over 3,200 refugee families.

“Being a child-centered organization, Plan’s top priority is the welfare of refugee children,” said Henri-Noel Tatangang, Plan’s emergency specialist for the West African region. “The immediate relief phase of our two-year emergency response will be geared toward meeting the urgent hygiene and sanitation needs of refugee children and their mothers.”

Make a donation today to help refugees like Kadidja and others who have been affected by both natural and man-made disasters.