The Lake Chad basin crisis has become one of Africa’s most acute crises and Cameroon is one of the four countries affected. Some areas have alarming levels of food insecurity and malnutrition. Since 2015, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of Nigerian refugees, fleeing violence from Boko Haram. Violence has also displaced around 241 000 Cameroonians in the Far North region. On top of this, Cameroon hosts the highest number of refugees from Central African Republic.
Cameroon is affected by a triple humanitarian crisis. Armed conflicts in Nigeria and Central African Republic (CAR) have resulted in a massive influx of refugees into regions which were chronically vulnerable. In the Far North, Minawao refugee camp currently hosts over 59 000 Nigerian refugees. Close to 31 700 unregistered refugees are located outside the camp with no protection. In addition, the total number of CAR refugees in eastern Cameroon currently stands at 247 800 people. Most refugees have no income and still rely entirely on humanitarian assistance to cover their basic needs. The influx of refugees has had a strong impact on host communities, who have to share their already scarce resources.
According to latest reports, over 2 million people are at risk of food insecurity, 66% of them in the Far North. The number of severe food insecure people in the Far North is estimated around 130 000.
Since 2013, the EU has allocated a total of €81.6 million in humanitarian assistance to Cameroon. In the last two years, the European Commission's Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations department (ECHO) has substantially increased its support to respond to the growing needs. In 2017, €20 million was allocated to provide life-saving assistance in the Far North region as well as in eastern Cameroon.
The funds contribute to maintaining the humanitarian response to refugees from Nigeria and Central African Republic, covering internally displaced people and vulnerable host communities. Shelter, food, safe drinking water and sanitation, primary healthcare, support to livelihoods, protection and emergency education are the main areas of work. Furthermore, the acute food insecurity and undernutrition of the most vulnerable population are also addressed.
In the Far North Region, it was necessary to adapt the previous nutrition programmes, focused on prevention, to allow them to respond to the current nutrition emergency. The prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition are also supported by the European Commission. About 250 000 people benefit from food assistance in the form of cash transfers or food supplies.
As the crisis becomes protracted, the provision of humanitarian assistance to refugees remains crucial. However, it must be linked to sustainable strategies of response to improve their livelihoods and self-reliance. This will allow refugees to get an income, so that they are less dependent on humanitarian aid, and reduces the possibility of tensions with local communities. In parallel, properly linking humanitarian assistance to development actions is of paramount importance in order to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable populations, particularly in eastern Cameroon.
In order to improve humanitarian access to the areas of the Far North hosting the largest number of internally displaced populations – where few organisations are present due to insecurity – the European Union also funds the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS), with flights connecting Yaoundé, Maroua and Ndjamena.