The Precarious Lives of Anglophone Internally Displaced Persons in Yaounde

By Savannah Smith RELUFA Intern/Fulbright Student Grantee

On Friday, November 29, 2019, RELUFA held its second program to provide assistance (50kg bags of rice, sugar, soap, beans, and palm oil) to Anglophone IDPs in Yaoundé.  With over 34 people in attendance, it was another successful event that brought hope to beneficiaries, even if just temporarily. Knowing that there are those out who truly care about the well-being of IDPs and long-term structural solutions was well received. During the program, as the team assisted with filling out questionnaires, the excesses of life for Anglophone IDPs that could not be reduced to a checked box or short answer spilled over in conversations. It is evident the challenges that IDPs face including food insecurity, access healthcare, adequate housing, paying school fees, etc., but it is how IDPs ended up in these situations coupled with pre-existing and current social barriers that compounds the situation. There is one particular story that captures just this and the need to go beyond distributing relief to providing capital so that IDPs can reconstitute their lives in order to be self-sufficient.

It was another day in Chomba, for Rachel Bih, a 44 year old mother of 7 children married to her husband, Fru Daniel, when all of a sudden their house was on fire. An unfortunate norm in the Anglophone region, her family fell victim to domicide or destruction of the home by use of fire – a common indiscriminate counterinsurgent tactic. In response, everyone ran and scattered in different directions grabbing what they could on the way out. The children ran to her brother’s house in Bamenda, Rachel also to her own direction and her husband ran in another direction. Later, she was able to reunite with her children in her brother’s house. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her husband. She has not heard from him since 2018. Since her house was destroyed and the family feared for their lives, Rachel Bih  brought her family to Yaoundé. By the grace of a kind-hearted woman, she currently lives in Soa neighborhood -Yaoundé in just a room with her seven children plus her sister’s three kids. Mankaa Julianna, her sister, is very ill and is unable to take care of them. Rachel Bih, teary eyed recounted this history to us. As an IDP in Yaoundé, Rachel struggles to provide for her family and is unable to pay for school fees, which is why her daughter, Akwa Quiniva Fru, accompanied her to RELUFA that Friday morning. With the burning of their home, only Rachel has her ID card since she was able to grab her

purse on the way out. For her children, their birth certificates were burned and they are relying on photocopies that were at her brother’s house. On top of the challenges that come with IDP life, her sister’s (Mankaa Juliana) three children live with her since their mother is very ill, making their situation even more precarious.

Her story reveals many things: the struggle that accompanies loss of a home, psychological trauma, inability to pay for healthcare, insufficient housing, food insecurity, children out of school which has larger implications for the future, and the difficulty finding a job and providing for your family, especially when a partner has been lost. Although not recognized as refugees, the precarious situation of Anglophone IDPs identities is similar. In the same vein, temporary assistance is necessary, but long-term solutions like capital to restart their lives in a new place through business, job training, etc. are just as if not more important. This is the case especially for women who have lost their husbands to the war or by any other means in society where women’s access to land, to formal job sector, etc. is already difficult. Therefore, we must understand the existing oppression and how it compounds with displacement and come up with creative and innovative solutions. From this, women like Rachel Bih can provide for her family, pay school fees, provide healthcare, in order to ensure a brighter future than the one they are currently struggle to survive in now.

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