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In their own words: Central African refugees and returnees in Chad
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."
"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.'"
"Me, I'm Peul. I was born in CAR. I don't have any Chadian relatives."
"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."
"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."
"Right now, we breathe, but we don't live."
"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."
"They [Paris St. Germain football team] are my favorite, so I painted their logo on my tent."
"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."
"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."