Responding To The Plight Of Internally Displaced Persons In Cameroon

By Jaff Bamenjo

Cameroon was known to be a haven of peace in the conflict-ridden Central African Sub Region for several years, but the situation has changed dramatically. Inherent internal vulnerabilities that could jeopardize this illusory peace have always been present. One of such vulnerabilities was the complaints of perceived marginalization by the English-speaking population of the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. In 2016, Anglophones, who constitute 20% of the Cameroonian population raised their voices to denounce their perceived marginalization within the Republic of Cameroon. All of this originates from the country’s colonial history, which provided it with a dual cultural legacy from France and England. Although English and French are the two official languages, the conduct of administrative processes is in French with no systematic translation into English, among many other contentious issues thereby posing a danger to the cohabitation of the two colonial cultures. The brutal response by the government to peaceful protests by Anglophones in 2016 resulted in the emergence of armed groups that have been fighting the military. The consequences of the fighting are worrisome. Besides the numerous deaths already recorded, the armed conflict has resulted in many internally displaced persons and refugees who have fled their villages from these two regions in search of safety in other towns and cities across the country. Humanitarian agencies have estimated that more than 700,000 people have become internally displaced due to the crisis.

Perpetual Quest for Peace
Conflict is a bearer of hunger and poverty. The present situation in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon best exemplifies this assertion. The story of Mrs. Njong Gladys, a 37-year-old woman from Batibo village in the Northwest region of Cameroon who is an internally displaced person living in Douala best indicates how conflict can exacerbate hunger and poverty. In 2018, Gladys’s village was attacked by soldiers. She succeeded in escaping to the bush with her children. Mrs. Gladys later sought refuge with her three kids in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. While in the village, her life was quite good as she was a successful farmer cultivating food and cash crops like plantains, palm nuts, and cocoa. Through farming, she had enough food from her farms to feed her family and enough money from the sale of cocoa and palm oil. She generated enough revenue to buy a car for her family and has never known hunger or poverty in her life. With the current armed conflict and her displacement from the village into the city, she has abandoned her farms and now lives in a two-bedroom house with 11 other people. She finds difficulties sending her children to school, paying house rent, and medical bills, and feeding her family. Glory’s story is just one out a thousand of similar stories of IDPs going through this ordeal.
War and conflict unleash devastation and drive millions of people from their homes into hunger and poverty, more reasons for peace to be. This year’s International Day of Peace was on September 21, 2023, with the theme “Actions for Peace: Our Ambition for Global Goals.”. While durable solutions to conflict should be the concern of all, we cannot ignore the immediate needs of those affected by armed conflict and are displaced from their homes with the resultant disruption in their sources of livelihood, especially when durable solutions are not forthcoming like in the case of the ongoing armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Ensuring food and non-food necessities and access to essential services for internally displaced persons can bring them temporary relief.

Responding to the needs of Internally Displaced Persons
RELUFA has been working with some partners to respond to the needs of IDPS in some towns and cities throughout Cameroon. One of such partners is the Fu’a Toula Kadji Defosso Foundation (KDF). In collaboration with RELUFA, the Kadji Foundation conceived a solidarity project to support people affected by conflict in Cameroon. The first wave of this support conducted in 2021 took place in seven towns in Cameroon. The second phase is ongoing and will target internally displaced persons in 8 cities in Cameroon. The beneficiaries of this food and non-food distribution are both direct and indirect. Numerically, 536 families representing a total of 3. 216 final beneficiaries received support in items including: – 01, 50 kg bag of flour.

  • 01, 25 kg bag of rice – 02, 5 kg each packet of “Panzani” pasta (10 kg)- 04 small basins- 01 cartons of 15 bottles of 1 liter of Azur and Neima cooking oil – 05 Kg of sugar- 02 kg of Tapioca or garri in some cases- 01 cartons of sardines (50 sardines)- 01 cartons of ham and chicken, (24 boxes)- 01 carton of biscuits- 04 pallets of UCB juice with (6) bottles of juice per pallet, i.e. 24 bottles of juice.
    The ongoing solidarity project implemented by RELUFA in collaboration with the Kadji Foundation to support internally displaced persons is a welcome initiative by the beneficiaries. But ideally, the urgent solution remains efforts to address the root causes of the armed conflict so that peace and justice can reign, and internally displaced persons can return to their villages and farms. However, while long-term solutions are being sought, emergency assistance in basic needs like food, shelter, education, and health care remain primordial. Being wealthy does not always indicate being generous, but being wealthy and generous means, you have a compassionate heart. That is precisely what the Kadji Defosso Foundation has demonstrated via its solidarity initiative for internally displaced people in Cameroon. They have a kind nature.

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