Humanitarian CrisesNews

Cameroon School Massacre: MSF Launches Mass Casualty Response

Humanitarian organisation, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has launched a mass casualty response in Kumba, South-West Cameroon following the shooting at Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy.

At least eight children were killed and a dozen wounded after attackers stormed a school in southwestern Cameroon with guns and machetes, according to the United Nations.

Arriving on motorbikes and in civilian clothes, the men attacked the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in the city of Kumba, in the country’s Southwest Region, at around midday on Saturday.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, and the UN has described it as “the worst atrocity” since the resumption of the school year earlier in October.

It was not clear if the attack was linked to a continuing struggle between government forces and armed groups in the English-speaking west seeking to form a breakaway state.

“At least eight children were killed as a result of gunshots and attacks with machetes. Another 12 were wounded and taken to local hospitals,” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement.

Some children were reportedly injured jumping from second-story windows.

Videos going around on social media filmed by local journalists appeared to show adults rushing from the school with children in their arms, surrounded by wailing onlookers.

Earlier, local education official, Ahhim Abanaw Obase confirmed six deaths of children aged between 12 and 14 and added that another eight had been taken to hospital.

MSF, in a series of tweets, said, “Our ambulance and medical teams are currently working to provide essential care for those injured. Doctors Without Borders deeply regrets the tragic loss of life. Civilian structures including schools and hospitals are #notatarget.

“Doctors Without Borders has referred five patients through our ambulance service in Kumba, Cameroon, and continues to treat four children in the Presbyterian General Hospital.

“Tragically one more patient died on arrival. Our teams continue to provide treatment to those in need, and we offer our condolences to all those affected by this tragedy. Civilian structures including schools and hospitals are #notatarget,” the organisation added.

Meanwhile, Matthias Z. Naab, the UN’s resident humanitarian coordinator in Cameroon. “I am shocked and outraged by the killing of innocent school children [who] were attending school to get an education,”

“Children have a right to education. Violence against schools and innocent school children is not acceptable under any circumstances and can constitute a crime against humanity if proven in a court of law.

“I call on the competent authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into this tragedy,” Naab added.

Cameroon’s so-called separatist Anglophone crisis erupted in 2016 as low-level protests over the real and perceived marginalization of Anglophones by the Francophone-dominated government. Modern Cameroon was created by amalgamation of former British colony regions of neighboring Nigeria with the France-colonized regions of Cameroon.

The protests turned violent in 2017 when the government of president Paul Biya used force to squash protests by the minority Anglophones. 

From the beginning, the government’s instincts have been to respond to Anglophone dissent with force.

However, the military option has not proven successful since then as over 5,000 soldiers, separatist fighters, and civilians have been killed.

Since then, the conflict has worsened with intermittent horrors over the last two years increasingly featuring vulnerable schoolchildren. 

As of 2019, close to one million children remained out of school due to the conflict, according to UNICEF, while 80 per cent of schools remained closed in the North-West and South-West regions.

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Anita Eboigbe

Anita Eboigbe is a journalist and data analyst with nearly a decade of media and communications experience in Nigeria. She has expertise in human interest reporting, data reporting, interactive content development and media business management. Anita has written for several national and international publications with a focus on communication for development. She holds an honours degree in Mass Communication and several certifications in data analysis and data journalism.

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