Cameroon + 1 more

Red Cross warns of dire humanitarian situation unfolding in the north of Cameroon

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15 April 2015, Yaoundé: For almost two years, Cameroon has witnessed tens of thousands of refugees pour across its borders as people flee ongoing instability in neighbouring Nigeria. Currently, 34,996 people have sought refuge in Cameroon, with 2,670 entering the country in January alone. A further 30,000 men, women and children have been identified as being internally displaced within Cameroon as violence has spilled over the border.

These populations are living in camps or with host communities in the Far North region with little access to the basics needed to sustain life, such as food, clean water, health care, and proper sanitation facilities.

“Time is of the essence to get these families the support they so desperately need,” said Daniel Bolaños, disaster management coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in Africa. “With people continuing to pour across Cameroon’s borders, it is expected that the situation will get worse before it gets better. We need to act now.”

Recent data indicates the Far North region has a chronic malnutrition of 46.1 per cent in children under the age of five. Almost 18 per cent of the population is food insecure. The rainy season has not been favourable for agriculture this year and the food security crisis is expected to deteriorate in 2015. The Far North region is also prone to epidemics such as cholera, meningitis, and poliomyelitis.

“These families are just like you and I, all wanting the same things,” added Bolaños, “food on the table, clean water to drink, a roof over their heads, and the ability to live in peace. I have been to the Far North region of Cameroon and right now these people are simply struggling to stay alive.”

Host communities are also bearing the burden of the influx of refugees and displaced persons. Local resources and health care facilities are being stretched to the breaking point, unable to cope with the increased case load.

IFRC is requesting 1.7 million Swiss francs in emergency funding to assist the Cameroon Red Cross Society in supporting 25,000 of the most vulnerable people in the Far North region. Interventions will focus on providing emergency health, water, sanitation, shelter, food, and disaster risk reduction. Ongoing activities include training 200 Red Cross community health volunteers and disaster response teams on how to assess the health environment, and outline immediate health risks. IFRC has deployed a regional disaster response team member to support the National Society in the implementation of these activities.

In response to the present emergency, Red Cross Movement members are working together to meet the needs of the internally displaced people, host communities and refugees.The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has strengthened its presence in the Far North and currently training volunteers with the Cameroon Red Cross Society to support the provision of first aid, the reuniting of children separated from their parents, and the tracing of separated persons.

“Let us not turn our backs on these people whose situation is not of their making,” said Bolaños. “We have a humanitarian responsibility to assist those who are most vulnerable and to ease their suffering during this unfolding silent disaster.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is the world’s largest volunteer-based humanitarian network, reaching 150 million people each year through its 189 member National Societies. Together, IFRC acts before, during and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people. It does so with impartiality as to nationality, race, gender, religious beliefs, class and political opinions. For more information, please visit www.ifrc.org. You can also connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.

For further information, or to set up interviews, please contact:

In Yaoundé:

Mirabelle Enaka, regional communications officer, IFRC central Africa Mobile: +2376 77 09 31 18 E-mail : mirabelle.enaka@ifrc.org

In Ethiopia/Nairobi:

Katherine Mueller, communications manager, IFRC Africa Mobile: +251 930 03 3413 / +254 731 688 613 E-mail : katherine.mueller@ifrc.org

In Geneva:

Benoit Carpentier, team leader, public communications, IFRC Mobile : +41 79 213 2413 E-mail : benoit.carpentier@ifrc.org