Cameroon: Bringing hope to refugees

Published: 25 February 2009 0:00 CET

Jean-Jacques Kouoh

Joachim Ndagne has had a disabled left foot since early childhood and walks with a stick. The 42-year-old is just one of thousands of Central Africans who, in 2004, fled from the armed clashes and attacks by road bandits to take refuge in Cameroon. Because of his disability, it took him five days to reach the region of Adamaoua, accompanied by his two children, aged nine and six.

Their welcome was not exactly a warm one. The inhabitants of Suba, the nearest village to the border with the Central African Republic, did not look kindly on the arrival of these strangers.

“The people of the village looked at me as if I were the devil himself, but I was just relieved to have reached the end of my journey,” he recalls.

Offered hospitality

After spending the first two nights in the open, they were taken in by a family who offered them hospitality. “I think that it was mainly because my children played with theirs during the day,” he explains.

“The inhabitants of the village began to give me work. With the money that I earned, I met the needs of my children as best I could, and they attended the village school,” he adds.

Since 2007, he has travelled almost ten kilometres each month to receive the food supplies and other relief items distributed by the Cameroon Red Cross with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and its partners in this operation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The distribution of aid in February 2009, like all the others, gave Joachim a thrill of joy and relief.

Very moved

“I am still very moved by this experience even today. Now I have provisions for at least another 30 days," he explains, thanking the Red Cross Red Crescent, WFP and UNHCR.

Under a blazing sun, the 30 Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers from the Djohong branch – newly created for this operation – and one of the seven distribution centres were working enthusiastically.

When asked if he intends to return to his home country, Joachim replies without hesitation, “This is my home too; I am accepted by the communities here. My family and I will stay as long as we are happy here. And with Red Cross Red Crescent actions like today’s, how could we not be?”

In addition to the distribution of aid, the Red Cross Red Crescent intends to launch community development programmes to promote the sustainable socioeconomic integration of these refugees.