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Chad refugee crisis 2017 Central African Republic Chad

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In their own words: Central African refugees and returnees in Chad

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Reke, 20, refugee from Bouda, CAR with her children. Two of her children died while fleeing to the safety of Chad LA Bagnetto

Some came across the border to Chad in 2003; others fled just two weeks ago, trying to escape the violence in their country, the Central African Republic. Many did not arrive unscathed-- whether from physical injuries or psychological trauma- and are scared to return as armed militias continue to act with impunity. Central Africans and Chadian returnees live primarily in six refugee camps and sites near the CAR and Cameroonian border.

The United Nations and partners are trying to help them and the local communities, many who have welcomed the Central Africans with open arms, but as one refugee explained, "we know there are other crises around the world, like Syria, that need help."

International aid has dried up for the Central Africans and the UN estimates that it has received only 10 percent of the money needed. RFI travelled to the region and met with refugees and returnees, to hear their stories, in their own words.


"I tried to flee with my knitting machine, which was hard, but I found someone with a bicycle who promised to bring it. But there is no market here for the baby clothes I make."

Ashta Aboubakar, 27, from Bocaranga, CAR, lives in Diba1 refugee site, near Baibokoum, southern Chad LA Bagnetto

"I wrote my motto on my tent here: 'Life is like boxing, you have to try and remain standing, to take the blows and learn to live with scars.'"

Donatien Dila Donteur, CAR refugee and co-founder of the Association of Handicapped Refugees and Chadian Locals, Diba1 refugee site, near Baibokoum, southern Chad LA Bagnetto

"Me, I'm Peul. I was born in CAR. I don't have any Chadian relatives."

Aisha Togodi, 30, a returnee from Bougila, CAR, who has lived in a southern Chad returnee camp for 4 years LA Bagnetto

"The people who were kidnapped here in Gondje told us that my turn will come soon, and that I should leave the camp. Why should I run and leave my family behind? The bandits will come for one of my kids, to get to me, or kidnap my wife, so I'd rather stay, even if it means I could die here in Chad. I'd rather die with them, that would be best...so that's why my thoughts can't rest easy."

Daniel Deba, CAR school administrator-turned-farmer in Gondje camp LA Bagnetto

"Yes, I want to stay here. I have no one else besides my daughter, who is here with me. No one else. I'm staying here. And if I die here, that's ok."

Halima Mahabas (centre), 80, originally from Pawa, CAR, waiting for her 3000XFA stipend from the World Food Program LA Bagnetto

"Right now, we breathe, but we don't live."

Oumar Saleh, married father of 6 children, originally from Bossangoa, CAR LA Bagnetto

"I had a husband but he bothered the orphans a lot so I left him. They don't have a mom or dad, so I'm here to help them pursue their studies."

Justine Baydou, 31, CAR refugee and the women's representative in Damboko camp; takes care of her daughter, niece and 5 orphans LA Bagnetto

"They [Paris St. Germain football team] are my favorite, so I painted their logo on my tent."

Bashir Ummar, a refugee from Bouzoum, CAR, outside his tent at Diba1 refugee site, Baibokoum, southern Chad LA Bagnetto

"There's a problem with food insecurity. Refugees are suffering, and when the refugees suffer, this has an impact on the local population... I only have 1 or 2 sacks of millet for my family. When the refugees beg in front of me, I feel incapable, I don't know how to help them."

Rupert Jeremie Madah, Chadian, mayor of Dinardé village next to Diba1 and Diba2 refugee site, and father of 20 children LA Bagnetto

"I went home in April. I heard there was peace. But anti-Balaka militia cut my back and hand with machetes. I know the people who injured me."

Ummar Hassan, 22, refugee from Bokaranga, CAR, apprentice driver LA Bagnetto