It’s hard for most of us living in the West to imagine what it must be like for people who suddenly become IDPs in their own country. This has happened to almost a million Cameroonians in the NW and SW regions simply because they are English speaking, living in regions that used to be British colonies, and where the English education system and system of Law were once firmly embedded. The other eight regions of Cameroon are Francophone. These anglophone IDPs have seen their homes and businesses destroyed, mostly by fire-bombs. Many have been left with no possessions, no identity papers, no means of earning an income and are living in fear of their lives. Many have had male members of their families killed and female members raped in the course of the fighting.
The political crisis started in 2016 when teachers and lawyers protested that their institutions were gradually being taken over by the French systems. Old grievances were resurrected, violence erupted, civilians were attacked and the situation escalated into war. Extra-judicial killings have caused thousands to flee across the border into Nigeria where they are living in refugee camps, whilst others have fled to the hard-to-reach jungle and bush areas, or to the outskirts of the cities, where they now live in abject squalor.
The highest priority for each family is to find shelter in newly formed communities of IDPs. In the cities they occupy disused shanty buildings or sheds but in the jungle/bush areas, most shelters are made from bamboo with straw thatch.
There are no sanitation facilities: people either use the bushes or build a rudimentary toilet over a ditch for several families to use. There is no drinking water: people use streams or dig waterholes.
Food is scarce and people forage or hunt for bushmeat or fish. Young children, in particular, become malnourished. Teenage girls who have suffered rape, face the prospect of giving birth in a grass hut. There are no nearby health centres, and no money to pay for treatment. There has been no access to education at all.
We hope these photographs give you an idea of how these poor people have been living for the past four years, and why we are concentrating all our efforts in helping as many as possible improve their standard of living, regain their confidence and ability to earn some income and get their children back into school. Please read the other articles in this newsletter about projects we have been able to fund recently.
Thank you for your continued support.