Since April 2013, some 40,000 residents of the Central African Republic have fled violence and crossed into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s never easy fleeing your home, but for the Longue family, the journey was even harder than that of most refugees—since childhood, Marcelin Longue has been unable to use his legs. In his home village of Libo, Longue often got around with the assistance of a wheelchair. But when forces from a militia alliance called the Seleka arrived, they not only took his wheelchair—they killed his brother. The incident solidified Longue’s desire to move his family across the Oubangi River to safety in the DRC.
Longue’s wife, however, was more than eight months pregnant, and they had two small children to bring with them. Despite the dangers, the family made it across the border to a refuge called the Batanga Transit Center, where they received assistance from the United Nations refugee agency, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Less than a week later, Longue’s wife gave birth to a baby boy.
Located on the shores of the Oubangi River, Batanga is across the water from the Central African Republic and the Seleka forces stationed there. UNHCR has been working to build and open camps for Central African refugees, and the Longue family were among the first to be transferred from Batanga to the new Boyabo refugee camp, a safe distance from the border. Panos Pictures' Brian Sokol captured the Longue family story and the rhythms of life in both Batanga and Boyabo.