Thirteen-year-old Mary was one of those students who survived a mass shooting at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, South West of Cameroon. They were in their classroom on Oct. 24, 2020, when suspected separatist fighters stormed in, shooting indiscriminately. Six students died on the spot and 13 were seriously injured.
The tragic incident was the Cameroon Separatists making good on their threat. They had earlier instituted a school boycott, promising hell to all those who attempted to violate their six-year rule.
The continuous insecurity in her village pushed Mary and her family to immediately relocate to Douala where they met HRH Chief Joseph Mofor, a displaced chief from the North West region currently hosting over 600 internally displaced persons (IDP) from the North West and South West regions.
Mofor started receiving IDPs in Oct. 2017. At the time this report was filed, he had registered 416 adults and 203 children. But despite the assistance from some persons of goodwill, those under his care lack basic social needs.
When Mary and her mother approached Mofor, he took them under his care. However, Mary has been lying sick in a local hospital in Buea, and Mofor says no government official has helped since he started crying out for help.
“They have been visiting us here, giving us all sorts of promises regarding this situation, but we are still working and waiting to see their reaction because the system of the administration is very slow,” he told HumAngle. So far, some 24 persons have died from sickness as a result of their deplorable conditions since Mofor created the camp.
“Those that we have lost died under terrible conditions. Some were sick, some died of war injuries. Twenty-four of them died, two committed suicide,” he revealed.
Last year, the main building hosting the IDPs collapsed and children were exposed to the cold and mosquito bites. The host said a Nigerian visited the camp and rented nearby houses to help host the rising number of IDPs.
“In fact, the situation back then and now is like day and night. The situation in those days was very very horrible. But these days we have smiles on our faces because persons of goodwill have been supporting the children.”
According to Chief Mofor, the displaced consume over 80 kg of rice every five days. The lack of shelter and toilets pushed him to seek the attention of the Divisional Officer of Douala 5, Anuafor Cletus, which he says later on responded with a subtle solution.
“The Divisional Officer has been here every day, and he has promised us. He took all the names of the IDPs, 416 adults and 203 children. I told him we have problems with toilets and shelter. He promised shelter and toilets would be provided but to my greatest surprise one afternoon, he came with people of the social welfare with 75 buckets that these children should be managing to use as toilets. I received it.”
When HumAngle contacted the Divisional Officer of Douala 5, he refuted claims that the government has not assisted IDPs through Mofor.
“We have been working side by side with him to ease access to donors and donations,” Cletus said. “We also worked with the Ministry of Social Affairs to make some provisions for his house. We also contacted him to send some young girls to learn some empowerment activities under the organisation Caritas, but no one from his home attended.”
However, despite these challenges, it seems like for some displaced persons, this is probably their only sanctuary.
Claudette Ngum, a native of Bafut from the North West, says things would have been worse if she and her children were not received by the chief. “My husband was shot in 2020 in Bafut. They didn’t let us collect his corpse for three days as fighting ensued. I took my children and we left for Douala, although I didn’t know anyone,” she narrated.
When Claudette got to Douala with her three children, she struggled to get accommodation in Bonaberi but no one was willing to host an entire family for over a week. She later met a man from her village who directed her to Mofor’s place in Makepe.
“A Nigerian came here and helped our father to rent houses for us and reduce the population. So some of us were a little dispersed but when it comes to time for meals, we all gather here and eat. So as I am here, if not for this Pa [Mofor], I don’t know what I could have done with my children,” she says. Also, another Nigerian provided a capital of $24 to each woman in the camp to start a trade.
Chief Mofor adds that this move enabled the adults in the camp to assist in feeding. “Other females sell carrots, garden eggs, bananas and hawk food. Fifty of them can go out to hawk but when they come back they donate 100 FCFA each for us to buy rice, garri, seasoning, and other food items,” he says. This has helped to run the camp when donors are not forthcoming.
“My wish and cry to the leaders of this country is for them to see the end of this crisis because up till this moment, it is still not safe for us to go back,” cried Claudette.
Tension between separatist fighters and the Cameroonian government in the English-speaking regions since 2017 has killed over 6000 people. Crisis Group reports it has displaced 765, 000 people, out of whom over 70,000 are refugees in Nigeria.
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