Annie Bete, 45 years old, from Central African Republic
Since 2013, violence in the Central African Republic has pushed more than 180,000 refugees to flee to neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo. Around a third of them are hosted in five camps of Nord-Ubangi, Sud-Ubangi and Bas-Uele provinces. As resources for assistance shrink and perspectives of immediate return fade, refugees need to become self-reliant in order to provide for themselves what they need to live in dignity and to become independent from aid.
Annie Bete, 45, is running a restaurant at the entrance of Inke camp, with three other refugees. She arrived in DRC from the locality of Yandonge in CAR with her three children; her husband died long time ago. She always had an entrepreneurial spirit: back in her home-country, she used to brew local beer and sell it at her house.
With support from EU humanitarian aid, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) is supporting income-generating activities for CAR refugees in the north of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNHCR and its partners are accompanying the refugees in setting up and developing businesses.
“When I arrived at the camp, I had nothing to do and it was really difficult. I could not cope with all the expenses” Annie explains.
Inke camp, Nord Ubangi province, Democratic Republic of the Congo, hosts around 15,000 refugees from Central African Republic, who arrived mostly during 2013. UNHCR and its partners provide protection and assistance to refugees supported by donors like the European Union who provide funding in key sectors such as shelter, healthcare and sanitation. After the first phase of the emergency response, now refugees need to get back on their feet again, which will reduce the needs for humanitarian aid. It will enable them to use resources as they wish and to plan for their future. It is a matter of dignity.
With the support of the EU humanitarian aid, UNHCR and its partners promote income-generating activities among refugees, helping them in setting up and developing their businesses. Refugees organized themselves in associations and are now running successful activities such as agriculture, soap making, milling and small trade.
Annie was identified by UNHCR’s partner ADES who suggested that she join the association to set up her restaurant. When the restaurant opened, it was an immediate success as this was the only one in the camp.
Then, other restaurants opened and things started to be harder, but Annie was not discouraged by the situation: “I did not want to stay with my arms folded, I had to take my courage with both hands to re-launch the business.”
Despite many challenges, Annie decided to continue her business even after others dropped out, because it was a source of income for her and a good way to use her time.
Thanks to this activity, Annie could send her three children to the nearby town of Mobayi to attend secondary school. She is proud of them as they will soon finish school.
“Thanks to the restaurant, I will be able to survive even if the assistance comes to an end.”
Like Annie, many other refugees are on their way to self-reliance and hope for a better future ahead.
Story: Chiara Cavalcanti, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency / Photos: ©UNHCR/John Wessels
In honour of International Women's Day, Voices of Refugees would like to pay tribute to all the refugee women who work hard to provide for their families in times of hardship. Often, women are the ones who stand strong and fight to keep their loved ones safe, despite being themselves exposed to violence and exploitation. We stand in solidarity with all women refugees who have proven time and again their invaluable resilience and strength.