On Their Own

Description

Boys carry firewood through the hospital compound near the Yaloke camp. Children affected by conflict and poverty have no choice but to work, rather than to pursue an education.

After running for their lives and being separated from their parents for nearly a year, brothers Abakar, 12, and Ali, 11, are back at home in Boda, Central African Republic (CAR).

In Boda, people of different ethnic and religious backgrounds once lived peacefully. But in 2014, that changed. Warring militias staged raids against civilians; brutal revenge attacks followed.

Families had to flee; Abakar and Ali, too. They ran, and when they stopped, they found themselves among strangers in the forest.

There was no going back, so they went on.

Days later, by the grace of God, they met their grandparents. Together they pressed on until they reached Yaloke, more than 80 miles from where they started.

Under U.N. protection, the Yaloke camp for internally displaced persons was their safe haven, but it wasn’t home. It wasn’t like normal life, though World Vision and other aid groups provided basic food, shelter, and healthcare.

There were 25 children in the camp who were separated from their parents, World Vision staff discovered.

“Some of the displaced children do not know where their parents or relatives are,” says World Vision’s Arlette Yepdjuo, manager of water, sanitation, and hygiene programs. They could even be refugees in Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, or Chad, Arlette says. It’s hard to find out what happened to them in the chaos of conflict.

World Vision has helped identify and register children and trace their families and is now working urgently to reunite children with parents who have been found within the country. The U.N. refugee agency is working on cross-border reunifications.

Abakar and Ali were escorted home in a U.N. military convoy accompanied by World Vision and UNICEF staff. 

Paul Sitnam, who leads World Vision’s humanitarian response in CAR, says it’s a high priority to reunite children with their families.

“This separation puts children at great risk and requires humanitarian players to ensure that children are protected throughout the process, up to reunification,” says Paul.

*The names of the children used in the story have been changed for their safety. 

Photo©2015 Kalebbo Geoffrey Denye

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