According to the UN, 3.9 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and eight out of the country’s ten regions are affected. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Cameroon is currently providing a humanitarian response to three different emergencies within the country’s borders.
Here are five things you should know about Cameroon’s three crises:
1. Trouble in the Far North
The havoc wreaked as a result of the armed conflict between non-state armed groups and security forces in the north of Nigeria has not been contained within that country’s borders. Incursions, cross-border raids and attacks within the neighbouring countries of Niger, Chad and Cameroon have been frequent.
The conflict and resulting violence in these four countries has been referred to as the Lake Chad Basin Crisis. Of the four countries affected, Cameroon is the second hardest hit after Nigeria.
The insecurity in the Far North region of Cameroon has to date displaced over 490,000 people and left over a million people in need of urgent assistance. As the country struggles to deal with this unprecedented number of displaced citizens within its borders, it is simultaneously hosting over 111,000 Nigerian refugees who fled to Cameroon as a result of the same conflict.
2. Civil unrest to the west
As Cameroon grapples with the situation in the Far North region, a brutal conflict is unfolding in a different part of the country. In the North-West and South-West regions, armed groups are fighting for the independence of the country’s two English-speaking regions.
The Cameroonian military has led a fierce crackdown against this secession movement. As is usually the case, civilians are bearing the brunt of the conflict and are fleeing their villages to escape the violence and widespread human rights violations being perpetrated by both sides.
Around 680,000 people have been displaced by this unrest. An additional 58,000 Cameroonians have sought refuge across the border in neighbouring Nigeria. The vast scale of this crisis and the lack of international attention to it are disheartening.
3. School’s out
Hundreds of schools in crisis-affected areas have either been shut down or abandoned because of insecurity. In the Far North region, about 400,000 school-age children need assistance with their education. Meanwhile, the instability in the North-West and South-West regions has forced 850,000 school-aged children out of school – more than the entire school population of Norway.
The schools that are still open must accommodate displaced children alongside children from host communities. This leads to overcrowded classrooms and places a huge strain on the already fragile education system.
Threats against teachers have led to teachers fleeing without returning, and most schools lack the basic equipment needed to provide students with an adequate education.
4. Trouble to the east
Cameroon is currently gripped by a third humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict in its neighbour to the east – the Central African Republic (CAR).
In December 2012, civil war broke out in CAR. The armed groups involved agreed to a ceasefire in 2014; however, the scale of the humanitarian situation today is still staggering.
There are over 270,000 refugees from CAR currently living in Cameroon.
5. How we assist those affected
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is responding to each of these three crises in different ways.
In the Far North region of Cameroon, we are renovating classrooms so that children of both displaced and host communities can once again receive an education. In 2019 we rehabilitated eight classrooms in the Far North region and provided learning materials for 13,500 children around the country.
Information, counselling and legal assistance is also being provided to affected populations in the Far North region. We help displaced families to obtain important documents such as birth certificates and marriage certificates. Last year, we provided birth certificates for 6,704 children.
We also work to resolve any land and housing disputes that may arise between displaced and host communities, and advise displaced people on how to ensure their rights are respected as they reside in host communities.
In Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions, we’re providing displaced communities with urgent assistance in the form of household items and shelter kits. These kits contain essential items for families that have fled with nothing but the shirts on their backs.
Last year we reached 56,238 people through the distribution of 9,037 shelter and household items in these regions. We were also involved in hygiene activities through the construction of emergency latrines, hygiene promotion and the distribution of dignity kits to women and girls, directly impacting a total of 82,937 people.
In response to the crisis in the east of Cameroon, we are focusing on providing information, counselling and legal assistance to affected communities. This takes the form of civil documentation, land access, and conflict resolution for refugees from CAR in both Cameroon and CAR itself.
Finally as Cameroon faces the challenge of coronavirus along with the rest of the world, our teams have stepped up to deliver hygiene kits and conduct awareness-raising sessions on the importance of social distancing and handwashing to curb the spread of the virus.