Read caption After spending four years in a camp for internally displaced, 44-year-old Stella, her 36-year-old sister Yvette, and her children are finally happy again after having returned home and rebuilt their house. Photo:Chanel Igara/NRC

Vouchers help returnees to rebuild their lives

Chanel Igara|Published 07. Nov 2018
After spending four years in a displacement camp in the Central African Republic, a new house changed Stella and her family’s lives. "This house has made us happy again," she says.

In 2016, the Central African government decided to shut down all displacement sites in Bangui, the capital of the country. As a result, internally displaced people living there were forced to return to their areas of origin.

Many are now struggling to find shelter, as their homes were destroyed in the crisis that erupted in 2012. Since the closure of the displacement camp, most have had no other choice but to live with host families in the areas they have returned to.

I am able to go to the distribution centre where I choose and get the materials we need when working on the house.

When members of an armed group entered the community of Bégoua and started killing people, predominantly men, Stella, a 44-year-old mother of six, had to flee her home. She feared her 19-year-old son would be forced to join the armed group or be killed.

Read caption Stella cooking in her kitchen. Photo: Chanel Igara/NRC

Stella and her family spent four years at the M’poko displacement site in Bangui. Her house back in Bégoua was pillaged and burned after she fled the violent altercations. Since her return, the process of finding housing for her family have been very tough. Luckily, Stella received assistance from our emergency response team, who has helped her rebuild her family home.

Vouchers provide flexibility and choices

"I receive a voucher that looks like money. With it, I’m able to go to the distribution centre where I choose and get the materials we need when working on the house," Stella explains.

Vouchers are a very efficient way to provide people in need with a dignified form of assistance. In contexts where the provision of cash is not feasible, vouchers are a great alternative: vouchers are not money, but have monetary value and enable beneficiaries to choose the items they need from pre-approved businesses that accept these vouchers. For this project, the vouchers enabled Stella to purchase materials to help her with the rehabilitation of her home.

Read also: Why not cash

Rebuilding houses for more dignity

The goal of our intervention in this area of the country was to enable people to rebuild their houses and move back into their homes, and also unburden host families who had kindly provided many returnee families with a roof over their head.

Read caption With his house (in the background) rebuilt, Anselme can now shift his focus to the education of his son. Photo: Chanel Igara/NRC

The rebuilt houses have a surface of 18m2 per person. This means that family members will have privacy and can start their lives anew. Stella for instance, now has a house with two rooms: "This house has made us so happy. We didn’t have enough resources to rebuild the house that had been destroyed on our own. Now, we have a good place to live again."

With this new house, I’m finally autonomous again, I have freedom.

With funding provided by the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has been able to rehabilitate and construct 39 houses.

34-year-old Anselme and his family was living with a host family for more than a year. When they fled the armed group’s attack on Bégoua, their home was destroyed by a grenade.

Read caption Anselme and his ten-year-old son Alfrèd in front of their brand new house. Photo: Chanel Igara/NRC

Anselme’s was recently able to move back into his reconstructed house. He shares: "I spent more than twelve months at my big brother’s house. This was very inconvenient. I was a burden for them. But with this new house, I’m finally autonomous again, I have freedom." Anselme is already planning to increase the size of his house. "As soon as I have the money, I want to make my house bigger. Maybe 40m2. That is a good size for a family", he says.

The crisis in CAR

Since its independence in 1960, CAR has seen continuous political crises of dictatorship, military coups and armed clashes. In December 2012, civil war broke out between the predominantly Muslim rebel group Seleka, from the marginalised northern areas, and the Christian and animist militia anti-Balaka.

In 2014, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced after the Seleka overthrew then-President François Bozizé. Later that year, armed groups agreed to a ceasefire. By then, almost one quarter of the population had been forced to flee

While the elections in 2016 were peaceful, the government still struggles to achieve lasting peace.