Humanitarian delivery for children affected by the NWSW crisis was further constrained by increased violence and displacements of 60,000 people. Aid agencies faced escalating threats including attacks on staff.
In Far North region, children and communities continued to be instrumentalized and traumatized by Boko Haram attacks with an increase in killings, rape, looting and abduction. Poor funding meant no measles vaccination, no LLIN distribution and no safe water activities were undertaken for populations displaced by Boko Haram attacks.
Country-wide, 78 of the 189 health districts (8 out of 10 regions) are in measles epidemic stage. All 10 regions have been affected by COVID-19 with most affected Center (7,808), Littoral (3,211) and East (930), the number of cases doubling from 6,752 on 31 May to 14,524 on 30 June.
Despite low funding levels and COVID-19, notable mid-year results:
More than 102,660 children and adults affected by violence due to the North-West/South-West Crisis received WASH assistance.
Over 34,700 children affected by Boko Haram violence and attacks in Far North Region received psychosocial support.
In South-West Region, 3,144 out-of-school children benefitted from the narrowcasting of non-formal radio education-literacy and numeracy lessons run by UNICEF partner, COHEB.
Response remained small scale with only 16% funds received impacting lifesaving and protection-based action for children including measles vaccination and vitamin A supplementation, rehabilitation of non-functioning water points, child mental health and psycho-social support.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
The onset in early March of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon introduced new threats to children and vulnerable communities. Humanitarian response immediately complicated by restrictions on group events and movement. An additional 2.3 million people are estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance due to the impact of COVID-19, bringing the total number of people in need from 3.9 million prior to the COVID-19 outbreak to 6.2 million, reflected in the updated Cameroon HRP, issued in early June. This includes over three million children in need of urgent humanitarian assistance as a consequence of violence and conflict, disease outbreaks including measles, cholera and the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the first quarter of 2020, intensified clashes between security forces and NSAGs linked to early February municipal and parliamentary elections and reportedly, the fear of contracting COVID-19, forced more than 60,000 conflict-affected persons to flee North-West (28,106), South-West (29,779) and West regions (2,466). At the same time, 16,791 persons returned to their locations of origin despite prevailing insecurity and the COVID-19 spread. The impact of the COVID-19 outbreak further limited access to basic livelihoods, education and health services, and the 20% schools that were functioning were then closed leaving 1 million school aged children forced to stay at home. On top of the COVID-19 pandemic and associated measures announced by the government, 41 lockdown and ‘ghost town’ days were experienced in the North-West and 35 days in the South-West. Formal and informal roadblocks were used by local authorities and NSAGs along with a reported increase in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by NSAGs. In response to the COVID-19 outbreak and announced government control measures, special operating and programmatic modalities were developed with implementing partners (led by Nutrition, WASH,
Education clusters and Child Protection AOR). UNICEF integrated COVID-19 infection and prevention control (IPC) measures into its overall humanitarian response to maintain planned emergency supply distributions and provision of emergency health, nutrition, WASH and child protection services.
In Far North Region, it was reported that raids continued by Boko Haram elements1 operating cross border but also by some groups situated within the border. From January -June 2020, civilians constituted more than 90% of victims due to Boko Haram attacks that left 214 dead. The violence induced further displacements—in Mayo Sava division, 6,500 persons fled from Kourgui and Gance, and in May some 13,000 abandoned the main IDP camps in Kolofata due to insecurity following reported infiltration by Boko Haram suspects, strong suspicions of collaboration and fear of reprisals. UNICEF, UN agencies and NGOs initiated limited response within available resources. Some 150,000 children remain displaced in Far North Region as a consequence of Boko Haram violence. [See latest IOM map below summarizing affected populations assessed in the period May-June.] In addition to exposure to attacks, children were endangered by the presence of unexploded remnants of war and the apparent resumption of abduction for purposes of recruitment into armed groups, including as suicide bombers. From January – June 2020, seven children were victimised into committing detonation attacks, this month 26 children and 13 women were abducted.
The termination of some NGOs operations due to poor funding was felt at the time that the COVID19 pandemic threatened communities in the three divisions of Far North Region (Mayo Sava, Mayo Tsanaga and Logone et Chari) bordering Nigeria.
These populations were already living in constant insecurity due to repeated cross-border incursions including kidnapping, murder, the burning of homes and ransacking of health facilities.
The COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions disrupted the immunization timeline at a critical time in which measles, seasonal cholera outbreaks and reported derived polio cases are still threats to children. Currently, 78 (41%) out of the 189 health districts country-wide (8 out of 10 regions) are in measles epidemic stage. At the 25th epidemiological week there were 1,262 confirmed cases with a lethality rate of 1,03%. The outbreak response is supported by UNICEF in priority regions such as Far-North and North regions. The COVID-19 outbreak induced school closures from pre-primary to tertiary level along with the ban on public gatherings. While online learning was promoted (in addition to use of radio and television), insufficient internet infrastructure, network coverage, community and household access to IT and related equipment severely challenged the delivery of online lessons and trainings.
In Littoral, South-West, South and Central regions, some 978 suspected cholera cases were reported along with 45 deaths as of late June. The situation may worsen as the rainy season extends to North and Far North regions, both of which experienced significant outbreaks in 2019. However, underfunding has hampered the needed replenishment of pre-positioned stocks employed for cholera and flood response in these two regions in 2019.