Refugees flee CAR for Cameroon's refugee camps - only to experience sexual violence

Food is scarce, and drugs and violence all too common in the sprawling centres organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The border town of Garoua-Boulaï is not only a centre for illicit trade in blood diamonds that feeds the conflict in the Central African Republic, it is also the main entry point for refugees.

More than 243 000 people have fled violent insurgency in Central African Republic for safety in Cameroon.

But in the sprawling centres organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the women have found little refuge. The Gado-Badzéré camp lies just outside the town and houses 24 000 people. Food is scarce, money even more so and drugs and violence are all too common.

Women recounted how they have endured sexual violence inside their rough homes of plastic sheeting, and outside when they scavenge for firewood.

“A man jumped on me and wrestled me to the floor until I lost my strength, and then he raped me. I was very badly hurt,” said one 30-year-old victim, who asked that her name not be revealed.

The internal injuries she suffered cause her to scream in pain whenever she urinates, she said.

In some camp households, girls engage in sex work to provide income for their families, said Eliane Moussa, another refugee.

Refugees have formed a camp security committee to address the drug abuse and sexual violence that is ravaging the camps.

One man was caught with a backpack filled with opiates he was peddlling, said the committee’s vice-president, Abdou Issa Rahim.

“We caught a refugee in the process of raping a disabled daughter,” he said.

This story was co-funded and produced by 100Reporters and the African Network of Centres for Investigative Reporting, with assistance from the Open Society West Africa. The videos were shot were by Christian Locka and edited by Aishvarya Kavi.

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