CAMEROON: Help arrives for 26,000 refugees from Central African Republic

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Some 26,000 refugees from Central African Republic who are scattered along the eastern border of Cameroon are set to receive assistance starting 8 August but the lead aid organisation warns there may be some delays.

“There are a number of logistical challenges in getting the aid to the refugees, who are living in more than 50 sites spread over thousands of square kilometres along the border with CAR in the departments of Mbéré (in Adamaoua), Lom and Djerem and Kadei,” UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis said at a press briefing in Geneva on 7 August.

“The imminent start of the rainy season may hamper the delivery of the relief supplies and security conditions caused by banditry also need to be taken into account,” she added.

Pagonis said some 15 to 18 percent of infant refugees are malnourished and dying at a rate of six to seven times higher than the emergency threshold.

The refugees, from western and northwest CAR, are mainly Mbororo nomadic cattle herders. “They have arrived in several waves since 2005 in the east and Adamaoua areas of Cameroon after fleeing their villages because of insecurity,” Pagonis said.

Various rebel groups and bandits have stolen their cattle and kidnap women and children for ransom, according to UNHCR.

UNHCR officials could not be reached for comment on the level of assistance provided to the CAR refugees in Cameroon up to now.

The refugee agency is sending more than 200 tonnes of basic supplies such as blankets, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets and hygiene supplies. Along with its operational partner, CARE Canada, UNHCR is also supplying medicines to 32 health centres in the region.

UNHCR is coordinating the relief operation, in which the World Food Programme is placing 2,997 tonnes of food rations in its warehouses to supply the refugees’ basic food needs for six months. The UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, is preparing to assist children suffering malnutrition.

A team from Cameroon's Health Ministry will work with the agencies on distribution and carry out a vaccination campaign for children up to 15 years old. The UN Population Fund will help women and young girls with problems related to reproductive health and maternal mortality.

Source: IRIN
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