“This time, houses were being burnt”: Fleeing intercommunal clashes in Cameroon
"My name is Madi, and I am a mother of 12 children.
My family had always lived in Maga peacefully alongside other ethnic groups, even if from time to time there were tensions.
I never imagined that one day we would have to leave.
One evening as my children and I were already in bed, my husband hurriedly came in and urged me to wake them up. More tensions had flared up. But this time houses were being burnt, people were being killed, livestock were being robbed. To save our lives, we had to leave.
He asked me to take the few things we could carry with us and we set off immediately. To what destination, I did not know. But the screaming and shouting I heard near our house convinced me that we needed to move quickly.
We walked with our children day and night across the savannah, resting here and there to regain our strength. Hundreds of us fled that night with the few personal belongings we could grab in a hurry. By the grace of God, we were able to find refuge in the locality of Bogo, about 45km from Maga, where the host population greeted us with food and drink.
Tented camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) were soon set up by humanitarian workers. Some people from our community were with us in our camp, while others were placed elsewhere, miles away. But what mattered was that we could finally rest, sleep peacefully with our children, and allow them to recover from long days of walking.
Once we settled, we were visited by several humanitarian organizations, including the Cameroon Red Cross. Volunteers went from shelter to shelter to see how we were doing. They taught us how to keep our shelters clean and how to prevent diseases such as cholera and COVID-19. But most importantly, they listened to us when we talked about the hardships we had been through and all the loved ones we had lost back in Maga.
A few weeks later, we received basic items from the Cameroon Red Cross. The volunteers handed out buckets, cooking pots, blankets, soap, and dignity kits to enable our girls to take care of their personal hygiene. We are extremely grateful for this support, but unfortunately it is not enough.
When we lived in Maga, my husband had an income, we could meet our daily needs. But now that we have lost everything and are far from the land we’re familiar with, we lack food.
Access to drinking water is a difficult journey. We have to walk up to 7km to find a water point, which is very difficult without our donkeys to help us.
Our children have not been to school since the crisis. And at night we share our shelter with many others because there is not enough space.
We are grateful to receive weekly visits from nurses who come to see our children, vaccinate them, and give us treatments for diseases. And we hope to receive further assistance from the Cameroon Red Cross Society.
For the moment, we do not plan to return to Maga. The after-effects of the crisis are too fresh in our minds and the tension has not yet subsided. We want to stay here for now because we are safe. But we need support."
The Cameroon Red Cross, with DREF support, has provided household items, water, hygiene supplies and dignity kits to 299 households in Bogo and Pette, in addition to running awareness campaigns on disease prevention and peace culture. We are currently considering how we can best provide further assistance to communities—potentially through cash assistance.
Speaking about the response, IFRC Regional Disaster Management Coordinator, Josuane Tene, said "At this stage, the needs identified are multifaceted. The shelters provided by humanitarian partners are not sufficient. Many of them are makeshift shelters and with the rainy season approaching, which is usually very severe in this part of the country, those affected need safe shelters. They also struggle to feed themselves properly. Cash assistance and livelihood support will certainly help them to meet their needs with dignity."
The IFRC’s Disaster Response Emergency Fund (DREF) is a central pot of money through which we can quickly release money to National Societies—enabling them to prepare for, and respond to, small and medium-sized disasters like the conflict in northern Cameroon. You can donate to the DREF today to support people just like Madi.
The IFRC also provides country support to the Cameroon Red Cross, and other National Societies in the region, through our Cluster Delegation based in Yaoundé, Cameroon. You can learn about this work in our cluster support plan for 2022.
Lights, camera, action! How cinema is saving lives in Cameroon
Combining both learning and entertainment, mobile cinema has, over the years, become a prominent way of engaging remote communities around the world on a wide range of important topics—everything from how to stay healthy, to how to prepare for disasters.
Each mobile cinema kit contains a projection screen and tripod, laptop, microphones and speakers and a generator so they can still run even in the face of power cuts.
Since receiving the kits, the Cameroon Red Cross has been using mobile cinema to share life-saving messages about COVID-19, cholera, and any others relevant topics, which will help people to prepare and stay safe. All in an exciting and effective way, and within a community’s own environment.
"Mobile cinema allows us to provide the right information that communities need in the fight against epidemics and disasters of all forms. This fun and useful tool is undoubtedly allowing us to improve our humanitarian response across the country,”
President of the Cameroon Red Cross
Mobile cinema screenings aren’t just about sitting back and watching. They’re also a great way to engage communities through question-and-answer sessions and to gather people’s valuable feedback.
Each screening is facilitated by Cameroonian Red Cross volunteers—many of whom were recently trained in communication, community engagement and feedback collection. Listening to people’s questions, concerns, thoughts and fears helps volunteers to understand communities’ needs better, and tailor their work accordingly. Marlyse, a 15-year-old student in the southern city of Kribi who attended a recent screening, said:
“This is the first time I have taken part in this type of activity and I have learned a lot. We watched a video on COVID-19 and this reinforced our knowledge on preventive measures. Also the talk with the people from the Red Cross helped us to know more about the vaccine.”
Mobile Cinema attendee in Kribi
You can watch the video Marlyse refers to below (in French):
At the IFRC, we know that epidemics begin and end in communities. And that with the right information and support, everyone can play an important role in detecting diseases, responding effectively, and preparing for future health risks.
Take Mr Biyong, for example, a community leader in Kribi who is excited about the Cameroonian Red Cross project and the potential of mobile cinema:
"We are currently experiencing a cholera epidemic in our community and in the whole region. I think this tool is very timely! Through the broadcasting of the video on cholera, the modes of transmission and how to prevent this disease, my community members were able to see with their own eyes what we try to explain to them every day. This is really a tool that will help stop the spread of the disease.”
Kribi Community Leader
Together, the IFRC and Cameroonian Red Cross hope to expand mobile cinema screenings across the country in the coming months, listening to and learning from the people we support as we go.
“In addition to things like food, water and shelter, we know that information is, in itself, aid. The IFRC is working hard to help National Societies like the Cameroonian Red Cross take ownership of the opportunities and benefits of this exciting mobile cinema approach to making communities more resilient,”
IFRC Head of Country Cluster Delegation for Central Africa
This work in Cameroon is part of the IFRC’s multi-country Community Epidemic and Pandemic Preparedness Programme (CP3), funded by USAID. Click here to learn more about the project and our work in this area.
And if you enjoyed this story, you may also be interested in our new case studies showing how Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have helped prepare communities for, and protect them from, COVID-19.
| Press release
Launch of ambitious partnership between IFRC and EU: a new model for the humanitarian sector
Brussels/Geneva, 30 March 2022 - An ambitious partnership between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) launched today aims to be a new model for the humanitarian sector.
In response to the increasing number of crises arising worldwide, the pilot Programmatic Partnership “Accelerating Local Action in Humanitarian and Health Crises” aims to support local action in addressing humanitarian and health crises across at least 25 countries with a multi-year EU funding allocation.
The partnership strengthens mutual strategic priorities and is built around five pillars of intervention: disaster preparedness/risk management; epidemic and pandemic preparedness and response; humanitarian assistance and protection to people on the move; cash and voucher assistance; risk communication, community engagement and accountability.
European Commissioner for Crisis Management, Janez Lenarčič said:
“I welcome with great hope the Pilot Programmatic Partnership with IFRC, a trusted EU partner who shares our vision of implementing efficient and effective humanitarian aid operations worldwide. The funding allocated for this partnership reaffirms the EU commitment to help meet the growing needs of vulnerable people across some 25 countries, in close cooperation with the Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies. It also confirms our commitment to strategic partnerships with humanitarian aid organizations.”
IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain said:
“Longer-term, strategic partnerships are essential to respond to the escalation of humanitarian crises around the world. We must respond rapidly, we must respond at scale, and we must modernize our approach to make impact. We know that the most effective and sustainable humanitarian support is that which is locally led, puts communities at the heart of the action, and is resourced through flexible, long-term and predictable partnership. The pilot Programmatic Partnership allows exactly that.”
The Programme will begin with an inception phase in several countries in Latin America, West and Central Africa and Yemen. The main objective is to provide essential assistance to those currently affected by humanitarian crises, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, climate-related disasters and conflict and to prevent loss of lives and suffering. Investment is also made to ensure communities are better prepared to cope with disasters through the implementation of disaster preparedness and risk reduction components.
Working closely with its National Societies, the IFRC’s global reach combined with local action, its long history of community-driven humanitarian work and its Fundamental Principles, make it the partner of choice for this Pilot Programmatic Partnership with the EU.
Following the first phase of implementation, the Programme aims to expand its reach and include additional countries around the world with the support of more EU National Societies.
The 10 countries of implementation in the inception phase are: Burkina Faso, Chad, Cameroon, Mali, Niger, Yemen, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama.
The seven National Societies from the EU working to support the implementation of the inception phase are: Belgian Red Cross (FR), Danish Red Cross, French Red Cross, German Red Cross, Italian Red Cross, Luxembourg Red Cross and Spanish Red Cross.
For more information
In Brussels: Federica Cuccia, [email protected]
In Geneva: Anna Tuson, [email protected], +41 79 895 6924
Pilot Programmatic Partnership
The Pilot Programmatic Partnership (PPP) is an innovative and ambitious three-year partnership between the IFRC, many of our member National Societies, and the European Union. Together, we will support communities worldwide to reduce their risks and be better prepared for disasters and health emergencies.
Preparedness to respond effectively to multiple hazards
By Olivia Acosta
Prevention, preparedness, early action, and response to disasters and crises are at the core of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). According to Mr. Jean Urbain Zoa, Secretary-General of the Cameroon Red Cross (CRC), one of the main challenges of the National Society is to be prepared for any emergency: “Better preparedness will help anticipate crises and disasters and build capacity to provide an integrated response. Preparedness can save lives, mitigate the severity of a crisis and engage the population and empower them to manage future disasters”.
Local actors are best placed to reduce disaster risk and to take early action when disasters strike. The commitment of the CRC volunteers, who support their own communities during emergencies, is essential – but the organization doesn’t forget that they, too, might need help. “The Covid-19 pandemic has affected some staff and volunteers of our organization, but we are trying to give the best response to the increasing needs in the most affected communities”, said the Secretary-General.
Indeed,nothing is the same since the pandemic arrived in Cameroon last year.Um Antoine, CRC first aid trainer,explains that“People in the communities are very afraid of Covid-19. They don’t want to be in touch with their neighbors to avoid contagion… the most disadvantaged people feel very lonely,some of themwithout any support or assistance”.
Several NGOs and organizations that used to bring relief to the area have left. Still, Red Cross volunteers continue to respond to the outbreak, carrying out activities such as house and school disinfection and encouraging the population to practice handwashing and other protective measures. Volunteers also organize programs through community radio to ensure that information on reducing the spread of the pandemic reaches a large part of the population, and specialists are available to address questions from listeners. CRC also works to stop the spread of misinformation, which can be spread through rumors circulating in the community. In addition, community feedback is collected and analyzed to meet information needs evolving over time.
Cameroon Red Cross is not just responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. CRC has been simultaneously responding to cholera outbreaks over the past year in the country. Through experience, the National Society knows the importance of detecting an epidemic before it spreads to save lives, protect livelihoods, and sustain long-term development. Well-trained and motivated CRC volunteers like Um Antoine visit members of their own communities, providing sensitization on the signs and symptoms of acute watery diarrhea, the seasonality of cholera outbreaks, and the need to report severe cases to volunteers or health centers as soon as possible.“We use available communication channels like megaphones, posters, social networks, and the radio to disseminate protection measures against cholera and raise awareness about transmission through contaminated food or water. We also work with the population to adopt hygiene measures to eradicate cholera from their communities”.
To reinforce its response in the fight against Covid-19, cholera, and other emergencies, CRC must continuously strengthen the capacity of its volunteers and staff at headquarters and in branches. Over the past years, CRC’s leadership, management, and operational teams have discussed the importance of being prepared. According to Mr. Renauld Bodiong, Director of Cooperation of the Cameroon Red Cross: “The effectiveness of the response depends on the initial preparation of the National Society. Therefore, it is important, and even essential, for a National Society to engage in the Preparedness for Effective Response (PER Approach) that is an institutional approach to NS Preparedness to assess systematically, measure, and analyze its strengths and gaps response system to take action. Always trying to work from an effective, proactive and innovative perspective”.
Upon request from the CRC, theInternational Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),the Swedish and the French Red Cross joined forces to organize, as part of the PER Approach process, an assessment of CRC’s capacitytoprepare for andrespond to various types of hazards, and support the CRC with the identification of its existing strengths and opportunities for further development.
The COVID-19 context posed a serious problem for the process to start, especially with the travel restrictions put in place as part of COVID-19 preventive measures everywhere.
As facilitators could not travel to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, due to travel restrictions related to Covid-19 in the first quarter of 2021, they provided technical support remotely from Canada, Greece, Russia, and Switzerland. Cameroon Red Cross branches don’t have internet access, and organizing interactive sessions remotely represented quite a challenge for all involved. Brand-new teleconferencing equipment was purchased and set up in Yaoundé, where 36 CRC participants were able to gather in a large meeting room, adhering to physical distancing recommendations. In addition, eight participants also got connected remotely from far regions of the country with the support of IFRC field offices.
Over the course of 5 days, the National Society checked its capacity to prepare for and respond to various types of emergencies, conducted an in-depth analysis of strengths and gaps, and built consensus around key priorities which require urgent attention. These priorities will form the basis of a work plan and feed into the National Society's strategic and operational planning and fundraising processes.
According to Bodiong, “It was very interesting to work online for the first time and be able to listen to everyone's input. For example, we identified that warehouses built in high-risk areas with pre-positioned equipment, well-trained volunteers, and adapted procedures would allow the CRC to respond effectively as quickly as possible to assist the victims of floods in many regularly affected departments of the far north region and prevent cholera outbreaks”.
The Cameroon Red Cross is now using evidence and recommendations from the PER Approach to guide the continuous strengthening of its disaster management systems to be better prepared to respond to emergencies that may occur in the future.
Cameroon Red Cross Society
Light at the end of the tunnel: displaced persons in Zamai Camp (Cameroon) find a reason to smile
By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC
The long-awaited day has finally arrived: The lives of internally displaced persons in communities settled at the Zamai camp, in the Far North region of Cameroon are changing for the better.
It was a sunny morning. The smiles on the faces of people at the Zamai IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) camp were already showing signs of their joy and excitement as Red Cross volunteers were getting set to start the distribution of farming aid and tools destined to support 150 people in farming activities.
Clad in a special attire, Sherif Moussari is one of the people who received the grant at the Zamai settlement hosting 2562 IDPs.
“I have been waiting for this day for a very long time. Farming has always been my passion and my only source of income to cater for my family. I have not been able to work as I used to do back in my village, and this has affected me and my household. We have never been used to begging from others but being in a foreign land, with no means, we have been living thanks to the generosity of well-wishers.”
Moussari hails from the Mayo Mouskota village in the Far north region of Cameroon. His village and many others along the border between Cameroon and Nigeria have, for the last few years, witnessed armed groups’ attacks, including kidnappings, killings, looting, burning of villages and theft of foodstuff. Moussari sought shelter at the Zamai camp two years ago, alongside his two wives and 12 children aged between two and 20.
To survive in his new host environment, Moussari has been working in people’s farms and keeping the livestock of those who need that kind of service. “I do not earn money for the work I do. I am being paid with foodstuff, which helps me to feed my family. Sometimes when I have much food, I take part of it to the market and retail to be able to buy oil and in some rare occasions I buy meat. For the livestock, my contractor has promised to give me one small ram for each ram that delivers. If he keeps his promise, I should be able, in a few years to come to have my own livestock and start my own animal farm. I just have to be patient and keep working hard,” says Moussari
A livelihood programme launched by the Cameroon Red Cross in three divisions of the affected Far North region, has mobilized 130 volunteers to support targeted families. These volunteers have been trained in farming and livestock techniques.
“At the Zamai camp, we have trained 15 volunteers who in return have extended the training to 150 people supported by the project. Each volunteer will have to follow up a group of 10 people as the latter shall start the farming activities. The volunteers shall assist the families in each of the stages of the farming process; from the reception and distribution of the farming inputs to the preparation of soils, the seeding and plowing, watering fertilization and phytosanitary treatment,” explains Ichaga Saidou, IFRC food security and livelihood supervisor.
Encouraged by Red Cross teams, most potential beneficiaries started a home garden as an experimental stage of the project and as a measure to test their level of commitment to carry out the agricultural project and be eligible to support.
The pilot stage of the project was a success for the Moussari family who, in addition to the home garden, has already identified a piece of land measuring 50 square metres to start commercial gardening. “I am confident that with the support we received we will be more resilient and fully integrated in our new host community,” adds Moussari.
“For 2019, as part of the project, there are plans to extend its actions to support river crops, in addition to commercial gardening and animal farm. However, the two major challenges faced by farmers remain the scarcity of arable land and limited access to water. Most of the land given to displaced families is arid and unproductive and the problem of drying water points is a general concern in the region,” concludes Saidou.
The ongoing project supported by the IFRC and the Swedish Red Cross intends to improve the livelihoods of 540 internally displaced persons and host communities in targeted Mora, Mokolo and Maroua localities through agriculture and livestock farming. The overall intervention is part of the lake Chad basin initiative to provide emergency assistance to vulnerable IDPs from armed conflicts who live in dire conditions in settlements and host families.
Open wounds: Hadja Bintou has never been able to find stability in her new environment after she fled from her village because of violence
By Mirabelle Kima, IFRC
It is in the neighbourhood of Sararé Lougueo—in the Far North capital city of Maroua in Cameroon—that Hadja Bintou, together with her husband and their seven children found refuge. For the 35-year-old woman, what she thought would be a temporary situation became permanent as her village Amchide in the Far North and other villages near the Cameroon border with Nigeria have been targets of recurrent suicide bombing attacks for close to five years now.
“My return to my home village has only been a dream which has never come true. I have become a permanent internally displaced person in my country, living from hand to mouth with the little savings we had and depending on others. Finding myself in this condition and getting to survive with my children has been a heavy load for me to carry especially as I left my house leaving every belonging behind. After three years of struggle with my husband, he died and left me all alone to face the hard realities of life,” sais Bintou.
The Far North region has, for the past years, witnessed massive displacements of close to 246,000 people, most of whom are women and children in dire need of assistance. Most of these poeple settled in the Diamaré, Mayo sava and Mayo Tsanaga divisions of Cameroon.
“At the beginning of the crisis, spontaneous solidarity was expressed by host communities who shared their food and provided shelter and clothing to vulnerable internally displaced people (IDPs). But after few months of constant assistance by the host communities, the burden became too heavy for them to bear given their limited means and other life challenges which they also face,” explains Ali Adoum, Red Cross local President in Maroua.
Bintou’s family, just like for many others, has been struggling to rent a house, feed, pay school fees for children and provide medical care for them.
“I was able to raise capital from the sale of my valuable jewelleries in order to start a business to support my family. However, no matter how hard I have had to work, I still have not been able to cope up with my responsibilities. Sending my daughters to school has always been a matter of honour to me as I was not lucky to enjoy that privilege. I hope that if my daughters are educated, they will stand a better chance to succeed in life,” adds Bintou.
Today, because of the precarious condition in which Bintou finds herself, she has had no choice but to send three of her children to a neighbouring village where they assist her sister in her business, in the hope that she would, someday, be able to have all of her family back together to live in a more dignified way. “All I am crying for is to have an income generating activity to relieve me from the chaotic condition in which I presently am and to enable me to care for my children with dignity.”
In response to the most urgent needs of IDPs in the Far North region, the Cameroon Red Cross has been involved, for the past two years, in water sanitation and hygiene promotion activities. The actions which have been implemented by 148 volunteers and senior staff include providing communities with awareness-raising messages on good hygiene practices, improving their knowledge on environmental hygiene, handwashing and food hygiene. These activities were all carried out with a view to reducing the risk of exposure to waterborne diseases, and particularly the cholera endemic in that part of the country.
From a football fan to a Red Cross first aid trainer
By Mirabelle Enaka Kima, IFRC
Guided by his passion for football, Martin Domwa joined Cameroon Red Cross in 2004 to serve as a first aid volunteer, during football tournaments in his hometown Garoua, in the northern region of Cameroon. Within a short period of time, he became a skilled first aid volunteer and could assist injured players and spectators while watching football.
“In 2008 while serving as a teacher, I joined the Mayo Sava Red Cross branch where I gained a lot of experience in my duties as a first aid team leader, focusing on providing assistance to people that are exposed to situations of violence and armed attacks in the region,” says Domwa.
The Mayo Sava is a division of Cameroon's Far North region, which since 2014, has experienced a series of suicide bombing attacks which claimed many lives and forced hundreds of families to flee further to other regions for safety.
Martin Domwa is one of the 16 first aid trainers of the Cameroon Red Cross to have participated in the first training organized by the institution on Advanced First Aid. The main goal was to adapt the existing skills to situations of blasts, fragmented injuries and mass casualty incidents.
“The training programme has enabled us acquire knowledge on how to provide assistance in cases of specific incidents, on how to instruct colleagues on administering first aid, and most essentially, on how to manage all types of first aid material and equipment especially in low resources settings,” says Domwa.
Today, Martin has trained 32 volunteers in the Mayo Sava area and plans to train an additional 48 volunteers from villages in the Cameroon's Far North region along the border with Nigeria and where communities continue to be exposed to violence from armed groups. “Thanks to the training programme, we gained more confidence in the way we manage our teams and provided first aid care to people injured following suicide bomb attacks, which occurred recently in Amchide (a village along the border with Nigeria in the Far north region in November 2018),” says Domwa.
“We however continue to face challenges in terms of the distances to cover during interventions and the lack of appropriate individual branded jackets for easy identification of volunteer teams during night operations,” adds Domwa.
The International Federation Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Swedish Red Cross continue to provide funding and technical support for the ongoing operation to address the urgent needs of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who are affected by the Lake Chad crisis inCameroon’s Far North. The intervention also provides Red Cross teams with skills in psychosocial support and advanced first aid in a bid to strengthen their response capacities.