Cameroon is challenged by four different crises.
- In the North-West and South-West regions, a separatist movement has displaced more than 700,000 people.1
- In the north, between 230,000-300,0002 inhabitants are displaced due to persistent violence by Boko Haram.
- In the east, the ongoing civil war in the Central African Republic has forced more than 270,000 refugees into Cameroon.3
- As of April 2020, the COVID-19 crises forced the Cameroonian government to take unprecedented action to counter the deadly virus.4
North-West and South-West Regions
For the past 25 years, ICA has focused its programming in the Lebialem Highlands district of the South-West region of Cameroon. In partnership with CIC Cameroon, ICA has sponsored the construction of classrooms, health care facilities and water-filtration projects. It has also assisted with a number of community initiatives aimed to improve economic development.
However, in 2016, long-standing grievances between the English-speaking regions and French-speaking government boiled over. What started as peaceful protests around civil and economic marginalization quickly led to an escalation of hostilities.
As of 2020, there are approximately 15 armed groups operating in the English-speaking regions. These separatist movements aim to form an independent country called Ambazonia. The clashes between these armed groups and government forces have internally displaced more than a half-million civilians. These Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have fled into neighboring French-speaking areas, as well as into major towns and cities throughout Cameroon. Due to this massive displacement of people, an already strained infrastructure is eroding. An estimated 3 million people are in need of aid, and 780,000 children are out of school.5
As a direct result of the fighting ICA has suspended its projects in the South-West Region and has shifted its programs to support IDPs and host communities in the neighbouring regions. We continue to sponsor education sector projects that not only gets children back into the classroom, but that also fosters cooperation and reconciliation between the French-speaking population and the English-speaking IDPs.
Far North Region
Cameroonians are displaced by the same Boko Haram threat that plagues the rest of the Sahel. Boko Haram’s goal is to establish an Islamic caliphate across Africa. It is classified as a terrorist group, and it opposes any kind of political or social activity that does not conform to Sharia law. As such, they are opposed to secular schools. Their area of operation intersects with the northern tip of the Cameroons Far North region, a portion of which is in the Sahel.
To counter this threat, the Cameroonian Armed Forces has been active in the Far North for many years. Unfortunately, the regional volatility has forced approximately 230,000 people to flee from their homes.6 This displacement has further strained the infrastructure of neighboring regions and towns. Approximately 1.9 million are in need of assistance.
Residents in eastern Cameroon face a different set of problems, but share similar challenges to the rest of Cameroon. The Central African Republic (CAR), Cameroon’s eastern neighbor, has endured a civil war since 2013. From a population of five million people, approximately 1.1 million are displaced. Cameroon hosts the largest proportion of CAR refugees, approximately 270000.7
Although a peace agreement was signed between the CAF government and 14 armed groups in February 2020, CAR refugees are reluctant to move home, fearing issues related to reintegration.
As of mid-April 2020, Cameroon has suffered from one of the highest number of COVID-19 cases in sub-Saharan Africa. There are almost 1000 cases as of April 19, 2020, with testing ongoing. While a nation-wide lockdown has not been implemented, the government recently instituted additional measures aimed to manage the situation, including the mandatory wearing of masks in public spaces (as of 13 April). Schools and universities have been shut-down, while mass gatherings have been suspended.
A fragile health care sector has compounded the Coronavirus threat. Hospitals are under-resourced. For example, there are only 10 ventilators in Douala, Cameroon’s most populated city, and only 3 ventilators in Bamenda, the fifth largest city.8
COVID-19 also compounds the effects of the conflict in the North West and South West regions. In early 2020, 34% of health care facilities in those areas were classified as non-functional or partially functional.9 The novel coronavirus threatens to weaken an already insufficient health care system.
All resources were accessed in April 2020.