A 37 year-old Central African Republic refugee, Henriette Batnan, could not afford to buy a Christmas present for her son Edouard, who fled home with her in 2017.
Instead, she dressed him in ceremonial robes so he could meet Santa Claus, who visited the Dembo Refugee Camp in southern Chad on Wednesday, bringing gifts for the children.
Edouard appeared to be on Claus’s list of nice children – receiving his first present since he entered the camp with his mother nearly six years ago.
“It makes me happy to see him laughing, having fun, and most of all getting Christmas presents,” said, Batnan, who like the majority of CAR population is Christian.
Edouard was one of around 300 children, who took part in a “Christmas Tree” ceremony organised by the World Bank’s Refugees and Host Families Support Project, which provides basic needs to displaced people and works to expand education and health services in camps.
Liliane Ganda Kadja Kossi, the project’s provincial coordinator, who came up with the “Christmas Tree” idea, said the event aimed to give the camp’s children a moment of joy, to help them forget for a while the difficult conditions they live in.
“The lives of children in refugee camps are not easy,” she said. “They are traumatized … They don’t have peace and quiet.”
For many children in the Dembo camp displaced by conflicts across central Africa, the event was the first chance to celebrate the holiday like other children across the world.