“I Wouldn’t be Married, If I was in School…” – Female Teenager laments..
Certainly, the current socio-political crisis plaguing the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon do not come short in violence, hysteria, propaganda, terror, increasing crimewaves, brain drain and economic hardship etc. With the month of November 2016 marking the beginning of the crisis, looking back 05 years, one sees no improvements in the lives of its indigenes, especially in the hard-to-reach areas.
Such is the case of Donga-Mantung and Menchum Divisions of the North West Region. The CBCHS’ Humanitarian Response team has braved all odds, in order to bring the most basic human life saving resources ranging from Health, WASH, Nutrition and Child Protection to the people of villages ranging from Misaje, Kimbi, Subum, Bua-Bua and Nyos.
After leaving Kimbi, there is no hospital for over 12 – 20km. The next health center is located in Bua-Bua, with no trained medical personnel. So, the CBCHS imparted some locals with the necessary skills to carry out basic health services. The people lack water, health care, shelter and food. There is general fear and terror, most houses have been burned down, and schools are not operational. There are hundreds of children aged 3 to 4 years old who have never been vaccinated, so it was normal to see 2-year old kids and above being given the BCG for their first time. In some places like the Mbaw plain, there was general resistance to the vaccines because it was thought of to be the COVID-19 vaccine.
The most horrific experiences involve gender-based violence, intimate partner violence, sexual harassment, and exploitation of all kinds. Young girls below 16 who should be in school are pregnant and some find themselves in early marriages.
“I wouldn’t be married if I was in school, now I’m married to this man who beats me up every day” cries Amina. “I can’t give birth to this child, I don’t know the father” laments 12-year-old Formi, another rape victim. There is also the case of Beri, teenage mother to a beautiful child born as a result of rape, who torments the baby because he is a reminder of the horrible incidence. Women and young girls suffer the most?
The male gender is not immune to the harsh living conditions. 7-year-old Ngala whose mother was shot, moved in with relatives who stigmatized and tormented him till he escaped into the bush, where he survived alone in hiding for more than 2 weeks. In some communities, there are uncountable homes with no adults because their parents were killed in the crisis. It is common to see many child-fathers and child-mothers ranging from 10 to 12 years old fending for their younger ones, usually in the mean age range of 6 years old.
The rate of malnutrition is very high because the crops cultivated got bad or were burned down while the people escaped into the bushes, and diseases like diarrhea and dysentery are very common because of no clean water sources. On many occasions, the people have drunk water downstream, not knowing there were dead bodies in the same stream up the hill.
Many villages have yet to effectively benefit from humanitarian aid since organizations and individuals dare not venture to those areas, because little or no security is guaranteed. The Humanitarian Response team of the CBCHS was the first to step foot in those villages in order to bring help to the people, thanks to the funding and partnerships they have benefitted from individuals and organizations such as CBC, WFP, UNFPA, and currently UNICEF.
“Our greatest prayer is for this war to comes to an end,” solicited Mr. Kongyuy Emmanuel, CBCHS’ IPC WASH Services Supervisor. “In 2019 we thought we were at the peak, but now it seems worse especially since the confrontations have to do with explosives. We put ourselves in their shoes and feel for them. This is what motivates us to work. The joy we get from relieving people from pain and suffering is a big motivation,” he further expressed.
The crisis is still very much a reality and the people in the hard-to-reach villages are getting worse off. How then can the conditions of the people be ameliorated? They need a lot of mental health and psychosocial support, they need education, many more child-friendly spaces are required to keep the memories of the children alive so that when schools resume, they will easily reintegrate. Above all, they need individuals and organizations, national and international, to be aware of these dire circumstances and to take action! Financial, Material and Human Resources are needed to save lives!