press releaseBy Mirabelle Enaka
When conflict came to her village in Central African Republic, Rosalie Gére Yagbandi, like many other mothers, took her nine children and fled to neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since early March, they have found refuge on the banks of the Ubangi River in Mobayi-Mbongo District.
In Central African Republic, the family had a relatively stable life. They operated a small business and sold fish. The children went to school. Today, that life has been stripped away. Rosalie, 42, and her family now live in extremely difficult conditions in makeshift shelters on the river bank. Aid organizations provide food, but the rations - 25 kilograms of flour and 25 kilograms of beans - are not enough to feed her family.
"The food they give us lasts barely a week. And we only get rations every two weeks," says Rosalie. "So my husband and I fish in the Ubangi and sell what we catch to the people who live here. This gives me money to buy rice for my family."
Rosalie also sells some of that rice to fellow refugees who are settled on the sandbanks like her. An adequate diet is not the only concern. With unsafe water for drinking, diarrhoea is also becoming a problem among the refugee population.
With the prospects of returning home to CAR in the near future looking slim, Rosalie worries about the education of her children. UNHCR will provide schooling for refugees who move to a camp currently under construction in Inke. It is further inland and meets UNCHR's mandate to protect refugees from cross-border threats.
However, at the mere mention of moving away from the Ubangi River, Rosalie balks. "My family is used to living by the river," she says. "I don't know how to live away from it. It also nourishes us every day with the fish we catch. Fish is part of our normal diet, not the flour and beans we are receiving."
There are many others like Rosalie who wish to remain close to the river and their homeland. With UNHCR and its partners looking after needs in the refugee camps, the DRC Red Cross - with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) - will address the needs of refugees who don't move.
UNHCR reports that nearly 41,000 refugees have fled into DRC over the past year, the majority of them since January. More than 14,000 refugees have already settled in Mobayi-Mbongo District, an extremely remote area in the north-western part of the country.
A Red Cross emergency appeal of 1,122,910 Swiss francs (1.2 million US dollars) will support 15,000 refugees over six months. The DRC Red Cross is relying on its extensive network of volunteers to help provide assistance, delivering that assistance by river or motorbike. To date, more than 8,500 volunteers have been mobilized, providing items like tarpaulins, blankets, mats and mosquito nets, as well as food, clean water and healthcare.
Although Rosalie understands that, for the safety of her nine children, it is impossible to return to CAR at the moment, it is a dream she is not giving up; a dream that will help her endure the challenging days ahead.