Central African Republic: Rebuilding Homes, Livelihoods
Life was good for Emmanuel Angazou. The singer and musician from the Central African Republic had toured Europe. He had received his bachelor's degree from the university in Bangui, the country's capital. He was happily married. With his music, Emmanuel could provide for his family and save a little money.
Everything changed on January 28, 2014, when war came to his hometown of Boda. Emmanuel's life was quickly transformed into one of hardship, loss and despair.
The Catholic Church in Central African Republic has often provided a place of refuge in times of crisis. This time, in Boda, it sheltered around 7,000 people on church grounds, offering a place of relative safety. There Emmanuel first encountered Catholic Relief Services, which provided critical emergency aid, including buckets, soap, kitchen supplies, mosquito nets, mats and cloth.
"Everybody was fleeing the market, so it was not possible to find food," Emmanuel says. At the church, "The sisters helped us."
Emmanuel had fled with little more than the clothes on his back. He stayed at the church for a year while violence reigned in Boda, as Seleka rebels—the mainly Muslim militia who had taken over the government in an orgy of looting and pillaging—burned many homes. Their opponents, the anti-balaka, responded in kind.
Thousands of Muslims remain trapped in an enclave, surrounded by anti-balaka militia, unable to move.
Building back better
"My house was burned. I lost two beds, mattresses, kitchen supplies—everything," he says.
Like most homes in Central African Republic, Emmanuel's had sun-dried brick walls, an earth floor and a thatch roof. With the roof burned away, the rains washed away the walls.
Emmanuel had almost no income. He made only pennies a day selling avocados. Rebuilding his house would cost $350. There was no way he could save that much money.
But CRS was helping families rebuild and recover in Boda. Emmanuel's neighbors shared tools that CRS provided—spades, shovels, crowbar, measuring tape, wheelbarrow and a level.
With support from the United Nations Common Humanitarian Fund in Central African Republic, CRS also provided locks, wooden doors and windows. People can feel safe leaving their homes during the day and sleep more secure at night.
"The door is CRS. The lock is CRS. The window is CRS," Emmanuel says.
More than 9,000 households have received support through CRS.
Crisis in Central African Republic
Two years of violent civil strife has destroyed life for millions of civilians in the Central African Republic. More than 5,000 people have been killed, and people live in a state of fear.
More than half of the population needs immediate assistance.
To help them, CRS is scaling up its shelter and housing reconstruction work, and expects to reach an additional 1,000 people in the next several months.