Since December 2016, the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon have been experiencing an ever-increasing situation of unrest and uncertainty. The situation has worsened with increased violent attacks and armed fighting after the presidential elections of October 2018, leading to a downturn of economic activity. Initially, the crisis only affected the rural areas of the Anglophone regions, but by 2019, it also entered the regional capitals Buea and Bamenda. Almost daily, there are incidents of armed clashes between government troops and non-state armed groups from the Anglophone regions, many of which belong to the separatists (called Amba Boys). In the course of the conflict, at least 200 villages have been raided and farms, property, hospitals, and education facilities partially or severely destroyed or burnt down.
The population living in Anglophone regions are caught up in the conflict and exposed to all forms of atrocities and human rights violations and restricted to move freely due to multiple official and unofficial checkpoints, curfews, lock-downs, arbitrary detentions and confiscation of personal documents. There have been incidences of abduction of civilians who are sometimes shot and killed. In addition, there are reported cases of sexual violence and abuse.
According to estimates from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than 437,500 people from the Anglophone regions were internally displaced across the Northwest, Southwest, West, and Littoral regions (Dec 2018). As a result, the number of IDPs has been rising dramatically, reaching 530,000 in March 2019. In addition, around 35,800 persons have fled to neighboring Nigeria (OCHA: April 2019). More than 50% of IDPs have sought refuge in rural areas, predominantly living in makeshift shelters in forestlands that are generally difficult to access. Others seek safety in urban areas in both the Anglophone and the Francophone part of the country. There, those financially capable may rent a room or an apartment, while others become often uninvited and potentially long-term guests in host communities or with families and friends. Hosting IDPs puts an additional strain on vulnerable households who already share limited resources. Due to their displacement, most IDPs have not only lost identification papers and certificates but also their entire livelihoods and the possibility of earning a living. This has a severe impact on their resilience and their ability to meet their basic needs.
Since the beginning of the mass displacement within Cameroon and to Nigeria, various humanitarian efforts have been made by different actors, including OCHA, the World Food Programme (WFP), Médecins sans Frontiers (MSF), and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Humanitarian stakeholders active in the Anglophone regions have agreed on a joint approach in the crisis.
In October 2018, humanitarian actors in Cameroon developed and Emergency Response Plan (ERP) and activated eight clusters (Education, Food Security, Health, Logistics, Nutrition, Protection, Shelter/NFI, and WASH). In December 2018, they finalized a Common Operating Dataset and developed an inter-cluster capacity mapping; and in February 2019, a Humanitarian Response Plan was launched. OCHA, as the overall coordinator of humanitarian efforts in Cameroon, organizes coordination meetings and cluster meetings in the Northwest and the Southwest regions on a regular basis. Mission 21 staff attend OCHA coordination meetings as well as cluster meetings. During these meetings, the participating organizations have the chance to exchange information and insights on the crisis with other organizations.
In addition, Mission 21 has been trying to respond to the crisis. In 2018, as a reaction to the evolving crisis and to respond to the urgent needs of IDPs in the Anglophone regions, Mission 21 initiated the Ecumenical Relief and Rehabilitation Program (ERRP). The programme builds up on and complements Mission 21’s longer term projects in the regions. As such, it started off by including IDPs in ongoing project activities and by initiating new initiatives to address the needs of IDPs where during the pilot phase at least 30,000 IDPs have benefited from various initiatives.
During a pilot phase between July and December 2018, geographical focus rested on areas with the greatest need, namely Meme and Manyu divisions (OCHA: Emergency Response Plan, May 2018) as well as parts of Fako and Ngo-Ketunjia division. The activities carried out during the pilot phase included the distribution of food and NFIs as well as medical and psychosocial support for IDPs and efforts to integrate IDPs into the social and economic life of host communities. In this program, Mission 21 works through eight local partners (see list of partners on page 1). As a response to the spread of the conflict and the increase of needs, Mission 21 has been gradually expanding the geographical focus of the intervention to more areas in the Anglophone regions.