UN World Food Programme

C.A.R. Refugee: ‘How My Life Has Changed’

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic. Copyright:WFP/Martin Penner

Fatimatou Djara is one of over 100,000 people who have arrived in Cameroon this year, fleeing the vicious bloodletting in the Central African Republic.  She and her three children receive food from WFP every month. In this interview, she explains some of the changes that life as a refugee brings.

BATOURI  -- Fatimatou and her children arrived in Cameroon in February. They are living in a small refugee camp at Yokadouma, just inside Cameroon’s eastern border.  Her husband died a few years ago but several members of her extended family are also in Yokadouma and assist her. She was happy to answer questions about her life.

What are the biggest changes in your life?

Having no money and very little to do. Back in our village in C.A.R., I had a stall at the local market. I used to sell tomatoes, onions, oil…things like that. So I was always busy.  And even though I wasn’t rich we were OK. I’d like to start up a small business like that here. It’s going to be hard because I spent all my money just getting here. But maybe I can find a way.

What else has changed?

Well my two girls aren’t going to school. It’s too far away for them to go on foot. We’d need someone to take them on a motorbike. And they couldn’t go alone. It’s a shame. School is a good thing, especially for girls. Another difference is how we sleep. Back home, there were six of us sleeping in the bedroom – me  and the children. Here there are 21 people in the same room.

Is it all bad?

No. At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that. And I have friends and family here to help me.

When did you come to Cameroon?

About five months ago. We left with a lot of other people from our village when the trouble started. There was a lot of tension and people were getting attacked. It was too dangerous to stay. To go faster, we paid for a car to come part of the way – that was very expensive.

What did you bring with you?

I managed to bring another dress, so I can change my clothes. Same for the children. We didn’t bring anything else. We had to leave everything behind.

Is there something you were especially sorry to leave? 

At least we are away from the killing and fighting. And we have food to eat every day. We are thankful for that
Yes, my set of new white dinner plates. I had enough for 20 people. I had just bought them and they were so beautiful. Who knows what’s happened to them now.

Are you going to return to CAR? 

What for? What am I going to do there with all the fighting that’s happening? If the fighting stops and things settle down…maybe, I don’t know. It depends on what the rest of my family does. They will decide. I just want to be where they are.

What would you say to anyone reading about you?

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We all used to live together in CAR, Muslims and Christians. There was no problem.  Now we’re all fighting each other. It's stupid. Now people like us have had to leave everything behind. And come here, where we have to start all over again. War is bad. People should be able to live together.