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After narrow escape from violence, Cameroon refugee gives birth to triplets

fatime eliane, a cameroonian woman, holds her newly born triplets at the refugee camp on the outskirts of n'djamena
Fatime Eliane,, who fled deadly intercommunal violence, holds her newly born triplets as she sits at the refugee camp on the outskirts of N'djamena, Chad

Heavily pregnant Fatime Eliane journeyed for three days by foot and dugout canoe last month to flee violence in northern Cameroon between herders, farmers and fishermen.

Upon arriving in neighbouring Chad, an equally daunting test awaited her. Three weeks later, the 32-year-old mother of seven gave birth to triplets in a hospital in the capital N’Djamena.

“Even when I was pregnant in Cameroon, I didn’t know I was carrying triplets but physically I was in pain,” she said as she breastfed one of the newborns, swaddled in a pink blanket, inside her tent at a refugee camp outside of N’Djamena.

Eliane fled her ethnic Mousgoum fishing and farming village last month when it was attacked by Arab Choa herders, who burned down her neighbours’ houses, she said.

More than 100,000 Cameroonians fled the violence – with dozens killed in tit-for-tit reprisal attacks – that broke out following disputes over dwindling water resources, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.

Eliane’s husband and three eldest children stayed in Cameroon, where they sought refuge at a site for internally displaced persons.

In Chad, Eliane now has seven young mouths to feed from the limited rations provided to the refugees.

“The birth of the triplets is a blessing but I am very worried because we have no food or money,” said her mother-in-law, Mariam Abakar, who later joined Eliane at the camp.

“Without assistance from the authorities, we will not be able to find food for the mother and her newborns.”

Eliane, for her part, said she hopes to earn some money selling cakes at the local market of a town not far from the refugee camp.

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