Nuela stands outside of her home in Boali, Central African Republic.

Nuela Ngaiboma is a 29 year old woman originally from Birlo village in Central African Republic. During CAR’s post electoral violence in December 2020, armed groups attacked Nuela’s village, Birlo. She fled and after an arduous journey she made it to Boali to stay with her aunt. In Boali, she received cash assistance from NRC to get back on her feet. She lives with her three childre, (two sons and a daughter) and sells food outside her house in Boali.

“When I was in the fields, I saw many people had started to run. When I asked why they were running, they said an armed group had entered the village and they had taken control of the village. I asked those running if they had seen my children. They said they had just fled as quick as they could. I had no choice but to go back and try to find my children. They tried to stop me from going to the village saying it was too dangerous. I told them I can’t abandon my children, and that I’m going to look for them so we can all stay together in the bush. When I returned to the village, I saw the armed men had taken the village. I heard gunshots coming from all directions. There were no villagers anywhere, there were not even any animals. I found my children and I ran with them to the bush until I reached the edge of a stream. When my aunt here in Boali learned about the attack, She called me and told me to come to Boali with a taxi-moto. I told her that there were no taxi-motos anywhere. How am I going to make it all the way to Boali? So my aunt asked some young people from Boali, to come to try to find me. They crossed through the bush on foot and they found me. It was around 9am when they found me and so we crossed through the bush together. It was around 4pm when we arrived here in Boali. As soon as my aunt saw me, she started to cry. She asked me to stay here and that’s why I’m here to this day. While I was here, NRC came here. They provided me with around $90 in cash in assistance. This helped to reduce my hardship here a little. One of my challenges right now is that my children are not going to school. They’re staying at home because their school is too dangerous. The children can’t go there because the school is surrounded by mines. I have many problems and I’m living in fear. I want there to be peace so my children can continue to go to school. I have so many worries on my mind. Because I am afraid. I am worried that what I just experienced might happen all over again. I just want peace for my country. So that we can work in our fields, go about our business, and see our children go to school while we live in peace. Then we will move past the memories of conflict and live in peace.” Nuela Ngaiboma, 29.

Photo: Itunu Kuku/NRC
Date: 13 July 2021
Central African Republic (CAR)

Nuela’s nightmare

It was every mother’s nightmare. Nuela had no idea where her children could be. But her three sons were not simply missing in a bustling market or at a crowded amusement park.

Gunfire had erupted as Nuela was farming in the fields just outside her village. She knew she needed to flee to safety. But first she had to find her children.

Today in the Central African Republic (CAR), fleeing one’s home at a moment’s notice is unfortunately not an uncommon occurrence. The frequency of attacks on villages by armed groups, and the ensuing clashes with forces allied with the government, are a part of the reality for millions living in the country.


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In January 2021, Nuela was living in Birlo village in the south-west of CAR when such an attack occurred. The day started out as normal. Nuela was tending to a small plot of land just outside her village. Suddenly, everything changed.

Read caption “I had no choice but to go back and try to find my children,” says Nuela. Video: Itunu Kuku/NRC

“I saw many people starting to run,” she recalls. “When I asked why they were running, they said an armed group had entered and taken control of the village. I asked them if they had seen my children. But they had just fled as quickly as they could.”

Her neighbours told her that it was a bad idea to try to go back, that it wasn’t safe. They even tried to physically hold her back from returning to the village. But Nuela told them that she couldn’t abandon her sons. “I had no choice but to go back and try to find my children,” she says.

When Nuela returned to the village, most of the residents had already fled. She could hear the gunshots loudly now and she tried not to panic as she searched frantically for her children.

She finally reached her home and breathed a sigh of relief. Her sons were there waiting for her. Without pausing to grab anything, she gathered Kolo, 10, Jospin, 8, and Cedric, 7, and herded them back out of the village in the direction from which she had come.

Nuela poses with three of her sons, Kolo, 10, Jospin, 8, and Cedric, 7 outside of their house in Boali, Central African Republic.

Photo: Itunu Kuku/NRC
Date: July 13 2021
Read caption Nuela was filled with relief when she discovered her sons were unharmed. Photo: Itunu Kuku/NRC

As relieved as she was, this was only the beginning of her ordeal.

Unlike most of her neighbours, Nuela decided that she would not hide in the bush and wait for the violence to end. Instead, she decided to walk through the bush with her sons to the town of Boali, a journey of nine hours, to stay with an aunt.

“As soon as my aunt saw me, she was so relieved that she started to cry,” says Nuela. “She asked me to stay and that’s why I’m here in Boali to this day.”

Displacement in numbers

According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), 713,000 people in CAR had fled their homes as of 31 August 2021. In addition, a staggering 57 per cent of CAR’s population do not have reliable access to food. That’s 2.6 million people in total.

The Norwegian Refugee Council's (NRC) food security and livelihoods team in CAR is responding by providing emergency assistance to recently displaced families.

Nuela stands outside of her home in Boali, Central African Republic and shows off the items that she has for sale.

Nuela Ngaiboma is a 29 year old woman originally from Birlo village in Central African Republic. During CAR’s post electoral violence in December 2020, armed groups attacked Nuela’s village, Birlo. She fled and after an arduous journey she made it to Boali to stay with her aunt. In Boali, she received cash assistance from NRC to get back on her feet. She lives with her three childre, (two sons and a daughter) and sells food outside her house in Boali.

“When I was in the fields, I saw many people had started to run. When I asked why they were running, they said an armed group had entered the village and they had taken control of the village. I asked those running if they had seen my children. They said they had just fled as quick as they could. I had no choice but to go back and try to find my children. They tried to stop me from going to the village saying it was too dangerous. I told them I can’t abandon my children, and that I’m going to look for them so we can all stay together in the bush. When I returned to the village, I saw the armed men had taken the village. I heard gunshots coming from all directions. There were no villagers anywhere, there were not even any animals. I found my children and I ran with them to the bush until I reached the edge of a stream. When my aunt here in Boali learned about the attack, She called me and told me to come to Boali with a taxi-moto. I told her that there were no taxi-motos anywhere. How am I going to make it all the way to Boali? So my aunt asked some young people from Boali, to come to try to find me. They crossed through the bush on foot and they found me. It was around 9am when they found me and so we crossed through the bush together. It was around 4pm when we arrived here in Boali. As soon as my aunt saw me, she started to cry. She asked me to stay here and that’s why I’m here to this day. While I was here, NRC came here. They provided me with around $90 in cash in assistance. This helped to reduce my hardship here a little. One of my challenges right now is that my children are not going to school. They’re staying at home because their school is too dangerous. The children can’t go there because the school is surrounded by mines. I have many problems and I’m living in fear. I want there to be peace so my children can continue to go to school. I have so many worries on my mind. Because I am afraid. I am worried that what I just experienced might happen all over again. I just want peace for my country. So that we can work in our fields, go about our business, and see our children go to school while we live in peace. Then we will move past the memories of conflict and live in peace.” Nuela Ngaiboma, 29.

Photo: Itunu Kuku/NRC
Date: 13 July 2021
Read caption Nuela stands outside her home in Boali with the cassava flour that she has for sale. Photo: Itunu Kuku/NRC

Nuela was one of many that benefitted from NRC's assistance. She received a cash grant of USD 95 after arriving in Boali. She immediately used the funds to purchase cassava tubers which she ground to sell as cassava flour outside the home she now shares with her aunt and children.

Despite all she has been through, Nuela remains resilient and is determined to support herself and her three children financially.

I just want peace for my country so that we can work in our fields, go about our business, and see our children go to school
Nuela, mother of three

She admits that she is worried about the future. Boali, the town where she sought refuge, has also been attacked and she is worried that everything she has experienced might happen again. But despite all this, Nuela believes peace is possible.

“I just want peace for my country so that we can work in our fields, go about our business, and see our children go to school,” she says. “Then we will move past the memories of conflict and live in peace.”

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