Risks and Needs for Child Protection in Cameroon – North West and South West Crisis - Secondary Data Review– April 2019
Secondary Data compiled by the Child Protection Area of Responsibility
In October 2016, English-speaking teachers, students and lawyers in the North West and South West regions in Cameroon took the streets in protest against the French language predominance in the educational and legal systems. As security forces responded to contain the riots, violence escalated into what we know today as the Anglophone crisis. Looking back at Cameroon’s history, it is largely recognized that the source of the conflict takes roots in the Colonial era. Under European occupation, 80% of the country was administered by the French and 20% was in the hands of the British Empire. French and English-speaking mandated territories were unified in 1961 to form what we know today as the Republic of Cameroon. Subsequently, the country officially adopted the two languages, two educational systems and two legal systems. However, due to the disproportionate demography within the country, “the government was accused of relying heavily on people trained in the French legal and educational tradition to work in key posts and generally marginalizing Cameroon's English-speaking minority, who make up about 20% of the population”.
The Anglophone crisis has heavily impacted different strata of the Cameroonian society. Following the protests that emerged in October 2016 from anglophone teachers and lawyers, according to Crisis Group, “the situation escalated towards an armed insurrection at the end of 2017 and has since degenerated into a civil war”. According to their report, “the conflict has killed at least 1,850 people since September 2017 and has now spread to the Francophone West and Littoral regions”. Resulting in dramatic consequences for the population in the affected regions, “most schools have been closed for the last two years; more than 170 villages have been destroyed; 530,000 people have been internally displaced and 35,000 have sought refuge in neighboring Nigeria”. More precisely, schools have become an important focus of the crisis due to the implementation of school boycotts, severely affecting a whole generation of children. Not only due to the intrinsic dangers and physical violence involved, but because forced absenteeism has exposed these children to significant risks of diverse forms of sexual violence, association to armed forces and armed groups, and family separation; all leading to extended psychosocial distress and mental disorders. Equally, the implementation of the “Ghost Town” days (when the population is not allowed to engage in any commercial activities), the daily nighttime curfew, and the closing and burning of schools, health centers, and other public services have critically disrupted the social stability of the region.
Ever since its outbreak in late 2017, the Anglophone crisis, contributes to aggravate the already fragile situation in Cameroon: the country has been targeted by Boko Haram in the Far North, while in the East, Adamawa and Northern regions, it is hosting thousands of Central African refugees fleeing violence in their own country. Additionally, the number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) resulting from the crisis is continually increasing. Strengthening immediate integrative response to the population in need stands as a priority for conflict-driven emergencies but the difficulty of physically accessing the affected areas remains an important barrier to service delivery. According to the latest humanitarian report provided by OCHA on Cameroon, 4,300,000 people have been identified as in need of humanitarian assistance of which 2,300,000 are children under 18 years old.