BANGUI – First in line in the distribution area, Endoxie Yassibiri looks anxious. It is the first time that she has received any kind of humanitarian assistance since she took refuge in the makeshift camp at Bangui airport six weeks ago with her husband and seven children. Endoxie, who is 34, is preparing to go back to her shack with a 2-weeks ration of rice, beans and vegetable oil distributed by the World Food Programme, together with its partner Coopi. Her future, though, remains highly uncertain.
“This food is really going to help us,” says Endoxie. “Today I’m hungry. We were used to two or three meals a day. Now we eat only once. All we’ve managed so far is eating small fish and some vegetables that we buy in the camp. We make a little money by fetching firewood out of town and selling it here to other people who have escaped from their homes like us.”
Another 100,000 people live in squalid conditions on the edge of the airport tarmac. They have all fled the wave of fighting that engulfed the capital of the Central African Republic at the start of December. WFP resumed its food distribution there on January 7th after a three-week suspension due to the violence. Field monitors visit families in the camp every morning and provide each of them with a rations card that will give them access to the food rations as well as buckets, blankets, soap and other items provided by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. On average one thousand cards are given away daily during this registration process. After a week, food has been distributed to some 20,000 people.
“Camps that appear in a city like here are always a very complicated environment to work in,” explains Denise Brown, Emergency Coordinator for WFP in CAR, as she visits the airport camp. “People move all the time, in and out of the camp and within the camp too. Despite the challenges, we are here, we are distributing food, and we will do all we can to assist all these people who are in dire need.”
A young neighbor came to help Endoxie to carry her goods. She walks back to her family carefully avoiding not to step on cooking pots, sewage or simply people sleeping on dirty mats under the scorching sun. “Look, my children are not well; they suffer from fever and parasites,” she says. “I took one of my daughters to the clinic that was set up in the camp and they told me that they could not do anything for her because they only took urgent cases. So she is back here with her fever.”
Most displaced people in Bangui live close to their homes, sometimes only a few hundred meters away. It is very unlikely though that they will go back until they feel completely safe. There is now a deep mistrust within communities who used to live peacefully together. “Today gave me a little hope, even if I would have liked to have been given a bit more food and a tarpaulin to protect us from the sun. We are restless here. I wish my family and I could go home but it was attacked and looted.”