Refugee Mum Gave Birth On An Airport Runway

14/08/2014 17:02 | Updated 20 May 2015

mum gave birth on a runway in Central African Republic

In the Central African Republic, every day is a fight for survival - especially if you're a mum. Florence recalls the moment that fighting between Christian and Muslim militias arrived at her doorstep.

"It was early in the morning and I was washing my children's clothes when shooting started right in front of my house," she said.

"I was pregnant at the time. With all the gunfire, I began to feel I was going to have my baby early. I was very frightened."

Without time to even collect any belongings, the family had to flee their home in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic.

Florence was separated from her husband in the chaos, but the family managed to reunite at a sprawling tent city at Bangui Airport, where 100,000 displaced civilians live in squalid conditions.


It was here, in a makeshift tent on one of the airport's runways, that Florence went into labour. With no doctors or medicine - in fact, not even a bed to lie on - she gave birth to Emmanuella.


As she holds the little girl, now two months old, she tells charity workers: "I live day by day and have no idea what the future will be for my daughter. We're waiting for peace in this country."


The Central African Republic is no stranger to political upheaval - its short history as an independent nation is littered with coups and counter-coups - but the brutality of this latest power struggle has shocked international observers.

The country has been the scene of terrible atrocities since sectarian strife took hold in 2012, following a rebellion led by a group of predominantly-Muslim factions collectively termed Séléka, against the Christian-dominated government.

Christian militias which sprang up as self defence forces to protect villages threatened by Séléka, have since themselves become a source of terror in many areas, accused of massacring Muslim civilians.

Despite repeated efforts on both sides to establish a ceasefire, many rebel alliances refuse to lay down their arms and fighting continues, often with civilians as helpless victims. ​As many a quarter of the CAR's population is estimated to have been displaced by the conflict in the region.

Florence and her family are now living in a camp supported by British charity Tearfund in the grounds of FATEB, a theological college in Bangui, alongside hundreds of other refugees.

Although the camp is crowded and facilities are basic, Florence is full of gratitude to the aid workers who are helping her family in their fight for survival.

"I thank God that I am here because they have given us food and water," she says. "We've been given rice, salt, sugar, coffee and soap which should last for three weeks."

However, she cherishes the dream of returning home. "I pray that peace will return... and that we will be able to go home soon."

More than half of the country's 4.4 million citizens are still in need of food, water, sanitation and healthcare.

You can find out more about Tearfund's work by visiting


Suggest a correction