PHOTOS: Voices of the displaced in Bangui, Central African Republic (CAR)

A selection of photos by South African based photographer Luca Sola on the desperate situation faced by nearly 30 000 internally displaced people

Tuesday, February 2, 2016 — With the final round of the Presidential election expected anytime this month, renewed inter-communal fighting since September 2015 in the Central African Republic is keeping the population on the edge. 

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is seriously concerned that fresh waves of violence could completely dash the hopes of the 450,000 people who have been internally displaced and those who have fled to neighbouring Chad, Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

On MSF’s request, Luca visted CAR between December 2015 to January 2016 and documented in image and text the desperate conditions faced by 30,000 internally displaced people living in the capital Bangui. Personal testimonies have been included in the caption information. 

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MSF159693<br/>Children play in the Muslim neighborhood PK5. Central Mosque displaced persons camp in Bangui.
MSF159637<br/>General view of a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.
MSF159642<br/>65 year old Amine at a at a camp for displaced people at the Central Mosque in Bangui.<br/><br/>Amina is from Bouca in the north of the country. One morning around 5am, armed groups surrounded her neighbourhood and pushed all Muslims inside a house and then set the house on fire. Amina was in a neighbour’s house watching the scene from the window. She was saved thanks to a Christian who protected and allowed her and some other mothers to escape. Amina found her four daughters and fled. One of her daughters paid for a ticket to go to Bangui while her daughters fled to Chad. That was three years ago, Amina often calls her daughters who now live in a refugee camp in Chad. Hachta (40), Apsita (35) and Kadidja (28) are healthy but have not been able to find work. Mariam (30), her fourth daughter died at his arrival in the camp following an illness. Amina would like to join her daughters but due to lack of money, she cannot. Today Amina survives thanks to the solidarity of the displaced families in the mosque, and the distribution of food in the camp.
MSF159633<br/>Nadège is the mother of three children, two daughters, Gabriella and Abigaille, and a boy born one month ago, named Prosper. Nadège gave birth in BenZvi camp helped by a traditional midwife.<br/><br/>Ethna (see MSF159672) and Nadège are friends and used to live in the same neighbourhood. When violence broke out in December 2013, they decided to flee their home district in KM5 in Bangui.<br/><br/>Armed groups killed Ethna's grandfather and looted her whole house. Following the attack, she fled at first to the Saint Jacques camp but there was not enough space in the church, so they decided to flee again to Benzvi camp. She has been living in this camp for almost two years now. <br/><br/>The two women are unmarried and to survive, they sell cakes on the street. "We eat only once a day." <br/><br/>Since they moved in to the camp, Ethna and Nadège’s children have fallen ill with malaria several times, but have received treatment by Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF’s) mobile clinic.<br/><br/>Sometimes, they try to return to their home area to see if they can go back there but it still very insecure.
MSF159684<br/>A man is brought to the Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital in a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.<br/><br/>After being tied up and beaten by a group of men after asking for payment, having polished their shoes. He was referred to the General Hospital in Bangui.
MSF159680<br/>20 year old Stéphane waits to be seen at a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.<br/><br/>"When there is gunfire or grenades, I can not go to school" says Stephane, who has lived in Mpoko Camp for two years. He had to flee his district, the 3rd arrondissement of Bangui, after a group of men burned his house and all the possessions of his family. Stéphane is a high school student and is the only person in his family that can earn money to support his five family members. Sometimes, he works as a daily worker at MSF’s clinic in Mpoko.
MSF159640<br/>Portrait of 20 year old Jordy at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.<br/><br/>Jordy comes from Bossangoa. Together with some friends, he fled the violence to find refuge in BenZvi camp, after one week on the road.<br/><br/>He survives thanks to the help of families who live in the same shelter as he does. The rest of his family is still in Bossangoa and he would like to return but cannot do so due to a lack of money.
MSF159683<br/>16 year old Naomi waits to be seen at a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.<br/><br/>Naomi will give birth to her first child at the MSF maternity ward in Mpoko camp. When her father died, Naomi was sent by her mother to study in Garoua Boulai in Cameroon, where some of their family members live. This is where she met the father of her child. To be with her family when the baby arrives, Naomi travelled for nearly a month to reach Bangui. The whole family, including her grandmother, her aunts and her mother, gathered in the MSF hospital to await the arrival of the baby.
MSF159650<br/>Exterior of the Bangui Central Mosque.
MSF159881<br/>Portrait of Valentin, at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.<br/><br/>"There are twelve people in this shelter. In the evening, we put a mattress on the floor and sleep next to each other. It's cold at night but fortunately an NGO gave us blankets a few days ago."<br/><br/>Valentin is a civil administrator. He lives in Mpoko camp near the airport in Bangui but is originally from PK5 district of Bangui. He fled his neighbourhood on December 5 following an outbreak of violence. Armed men came and killed two of his neighbours and one of his sons (Arthur, 38), and then they looted the house. Valentin had to bury his son in the plot of land that he owns because it was too dangerous to go to the cemetery. He then fled his neighbourhood to go to Mpoko camp. It took several days before he could meet his family again, as they had all been hiding in different places. With his wife, nine children (the youngest is 4 years old and the oldest 24 years old) and six grandchildren, they all slept outside in the camp when they first arrived: "It was raining and we had to sleep outside. <br/><br/>With the salary of Valentin, the children can go to school and university and the family can live a better life than some other families in the camp, but that is still not enough to feed everyone. "After the Pope's visit, it felt like there was a wave of solidarity amongst the population but is that enough to maintain security?" Valentin wants the rapid disarmament of armed groups that are, according to him, the origin of the trouble in the country. "The presidential elections offer hope. We hope whoever is elected will be respected by all. "
MSF159631<br/>Portrait of Gisèle, Valentin's wife, at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159628<br/>Cemetery at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159643<br/>Portrait of 45 year old Alima at the at a camp for displaced persons at the Central Mosque in Bangui.<br/><br/>Alima and her family lived at the Miskin market in Bangui before the violence. One day an armed group surrounded the neighbourhood and killed people. After this, she fled with her family (4 boys, 3 girls and her little brother) to find safety at the Central Mosque of Bangui in PK5. After having stayed in the camp for a few days, her little brother wanted to return to their home to get some papers that he had not been able to take during their escape. When he arrived back home he was killed by a group of armed men. "My little brother said: I am not a Seleka! But the attackers said he was a Muslim, which was enough to kill him”. <br/><br/>Alima has never been able to retrieve the body of her little brother. Alima now lives in the Central Mosque in difficult conditions. She says she lost one of her sons who became sick due to the living conditions in the camp. Despite receiving treatment by the Red Cross. Alima is trying to cope by relying on the help of other people living with her in the camp, as she and her husband are unemployed. “We were born here, our parents and grandparents too... and now we are treated as strangers". Last week, one of Alima’s sons won a football tournament. The trophy is proudly displayed in their shelter.
MSF159646<br/>Portrait of Alima's father, Adam.<br/><br/>Alima and her family lived at the Miskin market in Bangui before the violence. One day armed groups surrounded the neighbourhood and killed people there. After this, she fled with her family (4 boys, 3 girls and her little brother) to find safety at the Central Mosque of Bangui in PK5. <br/><br/>Alima is trying to cope by relying on the help of other people living with her in the camp, as she and her husband are unemployed. “We were born here, our parents and grandparents too... and now we are treated as strangers".
MSF159645<br/>Alima shows a photograph of her son, Amousa who was 23 years old at the time of his death (right, 1st row)<br/><br/>He was treated at the Red Cross Center after he became ill due to the living conditions in the camp.<br/><br/>Alima is trying to cope by relying on the help of other people living with her in the camp, as she and her husband are unemployed. “We were born here, our parents and grandparents too... and now we are treated as strangers".
MSF159679<br/>A mother gets medical advice at a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159677<br/>People wait to be seen at a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) hospital at a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159649<br/>Portrait of 37 year old Amin at a displaced persons camp at the Central Mosque in Bangui.<br/><br/>Amin is a former diamond merchant and artisan. Since December 5, 2013, he has had no work. He fled when an armed group surrounded his house and shot indiscriminately. He was able to be safe by staying hidden with his family (his wife and two children, 15 and 5 years). Then they joined relatives who welcomed them for 3 weeks. Amin and his family then fled to the central mosque. Today Amin is surviving thanks to the solidarity of his neighbors. His two children are able to go to school. Amin does not wish to return to Boirab because security is not guaranteed. <br/><br/>If the presidential election improves the situation, Amin plans to stay in the mosque but if the situation does not change, he will go with his family to the North. According Amin, since the Pope's visit, the situation seems to have improved but fear remains present.
MSF159618<br/><br/>General view of a displaced persons camp in Fateb, Bangui.
MSF159625<br/>General view of the a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159696<br/>In the M'poko displaced persons camp, Bangui.
MSF159879<br/>Portrait of Calle in a displaced persons camp.<br/><br/>Calle her mother Martine, and daughter, Divine are from Bossangoa. They fled after the attack on their home by an armed group who burned all their belongings and killed both Martine’s parents and Calle’s husband. They travelled for three weeks to find refuge in Bangui. They don’t have jobs and to find food is a daily struggle. Those they share the shelter with help them to find food but it is not enough. Divine is not going to school because they cannot find the money for the registration. They want to return to Bossangoa but cannot do so because the trip costs too much. "At night, it is cold in our shelters. We don’t have any blankets. "
MSF159644<br/>Photograph of Alima's son, Amousa who was 23 years old at the time of his death.<br/><br/>He was treated at the Red Cross Center after he became ill due to the living conditions in the camp.<br/><br/>Alima is trying to cope by relying on the help of other people living with her in the camp, as she and her husband are unemployed. “We were born here, our parents and grandparents too... and now we are treated as strangers".
MSF159659<br/>Rebeka inside shelter at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.<br/><br/>Rebeka fled the violence in Kaga-Bandoro, a market town 245 km North of Bangui. Her house there was burned and looted by armed groups. After five days travelling from Kaga-Bandoro to Bangui, she arrived in BenZvi camp with her older brother and older sister. It's now been five months since moved to the camp. She does not work but cares for her sisters children: "The hardest thing for us is to find food. Sometimes we sleep without eating". Rebeka says she does not want to go back to Kaga-Bandoro, and wants to remain in the camp for more security.
MSF159639<br/>Portrait of 51 year old Martine at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.<br/><br/>Martine, her daughter Calle and granddaughter, Divine are from Bossangoa. They fled after the attack on their home by an armed group who burned all their belongings and killed both Martine’s parents and Calle’s husband. They travelled for three weeks to find refuge in Bangui. They don’t have jobs and to find food is a daily struggle. Those they share the shelter with help them to find food but it is not enough. Divine is not going to school because they cannot find the money for the registration. They want to return to Bossangoa but cannot do so because the trip costs too much. "At night, it is cold in our shelters. We don’t have any blankets. "
MSF159669<br/>45 year old Julienne walks inside a shelter at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.<br/><br/>Julienne has lived in Benzvi camp for one year but it has been two years since she left her arrondissement near KM5 in Bangui. An armed group came into her house but she escaped with her seven children, her husband and her grandson. While they were fleeing, her grandson was shot and died, just as they arrived in the camp of Saint Jacques. They stayed more than a year in this structure but they finally decided to move again because of lack of space in the church. She has to look after children on her own. In order to survive, she receives food rations from NGOs. <br/>Julienne doesn’t want to return to her neighbourhood. Her house was burned and looted and her safety cannot be guaranteed.
MSF159634<br/>General view of a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.
MSF159624<br/>General view of the a displaced persons camp in M'Poko, Bangui.
MSF159658<br/>Interior of a large shelter at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui.
MSF159663<br/>17 year old Mireil has her baby weighed by a Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) staff member at an MSF hospital at a displaced persons camp in Benzvi, Bangui
MSF159629<br/>A painted sign at a displaced persons camp reads: "Sens Interdit" (No Entry), along with illustrations of guns and knives in M'Poko, Bangui.