A young interpreter in the Lolo refugee-hosting site, Eastern Cameroon (April 2014)

“They arrived early in the morning, and by 8am they had surrounded the village. Then they started to set the houses on fire and to kill the people.”

With a low but firm voice, 20-year old Asinatu tells the dramatic story of how her village in the Eastern part of the Central African Republic was attacked by the anti-balaka, a paramilitary armed group seeking revenge for the abuse inflicted by the previous government.

Asinatu stayed in hiding with her family for almost the entire day, terrified by what was happening outside. At 7pm, they realized that a way out of village was left unguarded and they managed to escape, running away in the dark.

That day, Asinatu left everything behind. She had recently completed her secondary school studies and had been happy and settled, living in the village with her family.

After a journey spanning several days, she reached the border with Cameroon and was registered by UNHCR and taken to refugee hosting areas.

She now feels safe and thanks to her education and good knowledge of French, she is very active in the settlement and helps other refugees communicate their needs to UNHCR staff and partners.

Since the beginning of the year, more than 80,000 CAR refugees have been registered in Cameroon. The site where Asinatu is living, Lolo, is run by UNHCR together with Cameroonian authorities and partners. There, some 8000 refugees like Asinatu receive  shelter, food and medical assistance.

Asinatu is doubtful about the possibility of returning to the Central African Republic, at least while the situation remains so unstable. What she wants most of all, is to continue to study and feel safe in Cameroon.