The humanitarian situation is increasingly fragile in Cameroon. Since 2017, tensions in the Northwest and Southwest regions have escalated, while violence and insecurity have uprooted hundreds of thousands of people. Cameroon hosts more than 434,000 refugees, mainly from Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR). These crises have an impact on host communities as well, who have to share their already scarce resources and strained basic services. The coronavirus pandemic increased humanitarian needs and further strained an already fragile health system.
In Cameroon’s Northwest and Southwest regions, political tensions that started out as protests have turned into violent clashes and a full-blown humanitarian crisis.
This conflict has driven more than 711,000 people out of their homes, both within Cameroon as well as to neighbouring Nigeria (IOM/UNHCR). More than 3 million people in Cameroon are in need of humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian access remains a major challenge due to administrative hurdles and damaged road infrastructure. Measures to mitigate the coronavirus pandemic have hindered the delivery of humanitarian aid to the most vulnerable.
Since 2013, sectarian violence in the Central African Republic has resulted in a massive influx of CAR refugees in Cameroon’s East region, already chronically vulnerable. Most of the 283,000 CAR refugees live among local communities, thereby increasing the pressure on access to basic services, such as healthcare or education, and local resources, such as firewood, water, or land.
The conflict in northeast Nigeria still affects Cameroon’s Far North region, with villages randomly looted or burnt, cattle stolen from farmers, and kidnappings for ransom taking place. Cameroon is hosting nearly 114,000 Nigerian refugees and more than 484,000 Cameroonians from the Far North escaped elsewhere in the country. Farmers feel insecure and families are at risk of food shortages. Healthcare services in the area had to be reduced to the minimum. On top of insecurity, the Far North region is prone to climate hazards, such as floods.
Since 2013, the European Union has allocated more than €140 million in humanitarian assistance to Cameroon, including over €20 million in 2020. In recent years, the EU has substantially increased its support to respond to the growing needs and increasing complexity of the humanitarian situation in the country.
EU-funded actions in Cameroon support refugees from Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR), uprooted Cameroonians who found refuge elsewhere in the country, and host communities in the Far North, Southwest and Northwest regions. Aid focuses on providing food, safe drinking water and sanitation, primary healthcare, shelter, livelihoods support, protection, and education.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, EU-funded humanitarian projects in Cameroon are adopting measures and adapting exiting ones within their projects to help beneficiaries and staff keep safe. They also continue to provide life-saving assistance to support vulnerable communities. Actions already focusing on the health sector and in providing access to clean water and sanitation are help taking into account the new needs brought about by the pandemic, in line with Cameroon’s COVID-19 Response Plan. The EU also contributed funding in support of the WHO’s actions in the country on early detection and response, and on having adequate expertise on the ground.
Immediate humanitarian assistance to refugees remains crucial, but given the protracted nature of the displacement, especially when it comes to CAR refugees, aid efforts are also being directed at improving their livelihoods and self-reliance. This would help in reducing refugees’ dependence on humanitarian aid and counter any potential tensions that may arise with local host communities that have to share their resources.
Importance is given to linking immediate humanitarian assistance to longer-term development actions. This included support to the education and health systems, or rural development to strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities, particularly in eastern Cameroon.
The European Union also funds the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS) in the Far North Region of Cameroon to facilitate humanitarian organisations’ access to people in need.