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Central African Republic: Children in the bush, part 2

Save the Children’s Mike McCusker with displaced CAR villagers

Read part 1 of this blog here

The group of boys guide us swiftly along the beaten path and into the bush. We know it’s a risky trip. Along the way, the boys point out where they pick chikwange, the vegetable that is their main diet source. Occasionally, they manage to trap fish from the river: a rare luxury. After a half-hour walk, we reach an open patch of land where a large family come forward to greet us.

There are two large huts of straw and bamboo where the family sleeps, and several stools and chairs circling a large, shaded tree. There are also a few pots and pans, a shovel and a rake.  The family built all of these and it is immediately apparent that they expect them to have to last a long time.

Etienne, a father alone

Etienne, the father of the family, introduces himself and we shake hands. His wife was killed during the April raid; he fled with their five children and whatever belongings he could carry. “At first, we travelled very far [about 25km] but in August when the rebels stopped coming in to look for us, we moved here where we are closer to the villages.”

We discuss their life in these conditions. “We cannot go anywhere,” he says, “the rebels will kill us if they find us. We can’t even go to church as they travel along the main road every day.” According to Etienne, there are over 400 families living in different parts of the bush around this area.

Hard to reach in a hideout

I feel helpless speaking to Etienne. It is very difficult for our mobile teams to reach him and his family in their hideout. He is also unaware that Save the Children is running mobile health clinics in Maorka, the nearest village, which is about 2km north.

When it comes time to bid farewell to Etienne and his family, he leaves me with one final message: “There are many others out here with nothing. No clothes, no house… If we cannot rely on the state to help us, we call on the help of others, since we cannot return.”

Save the Children and Merlin are  on the ground delivering life-saving help to people in CAR affected by the conflict but it is obvious that there is much more to do.  The need is clearly visible – especially when the families themselves are doing their utmost to remain out of sight.

Watch Channel 4’s news report on the CAR featuring our CEO Justin Forsyth here


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