AFRICA/CAMEROON - In the English-speaking regions, terror prevents humanitarian aid, education, health care: women and children are the victims

Monday, 20 June 2022 human rights   child soldier   childhood   women  

Bamenda (Agenzi Fides) - "Our intervention suffers from many objective limits. The first of these is the situation of terror that prevails throughout the region. I myself was kidnapped, along with three other operators, by the Amba Boys (the independentist armed groups, editor's note) while we were trying to reach the isolated populations in the forest and bring basic necessities. They detained us for five days, treating us rather aggressively. When they finally understood that we were not there on behalf of the government, they let us pass. One of our vans was set on fire some time ago and our workers were threatened. It is difficult to work like that". This is what Banlav Eric Ngah, associate director of Caritas Bamenda, capital of the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, told Fides, plunged since 2017 into the horror of the clashes between the army and the separatists. The civilian population of this region, very rich and very productive, is in the grip of the conflict for the moment "of low intensity" which sees on the one hand, the "Amba Boys", perpetrators of murders, kidnappings , very harsh impositions on the population (such as the closure of schools, in some areas at 80%); on the other hand, the army which responds by burning down entire villages if its personnel or resources are hit. "What we call here 'crisis' is dramatically transforming the face of our regions", Father Boris Sife Lemfon, provincial and diocesan director of Caritas, told Fides. "One of the most negative things is the fact that we have a lot of young girls who, not going to school, not having a job, quickly become mothers, victims of sexual violence or intimidation. They are mistreated by the military and the Ambas and the number of single mothers is increasing". "Our two biggest partners are WFP (World Food Programme) and CRS (Catholic Relief Service)", adds Shiyvimuvi Vevinyu Delphine, psychosocial worker at Caritas Bamenda. "We manage to reach 80,000 people and help them with food, relief materials and to fight against malnutrition, a recent phenomenon due to the war, because there has never been poverty here. Obviously, roadblocks and kidnappings put a strain on the supply, especially in the outlying areas. Unfortunately, the NGO Doctors Without Borders was expelled and this created a vacuum: many people isolated in the forests and aught up in the conflict are without a health reference point and without the possibility of treatment". Among the most atrocious results of the tense situation in a region of 8 million inhabitants is the phenomenon linked to the fate of the youngest. The number of child soldiers, child sex slaves or abused, forced to work at a tender age, kidnapped by traffickers and sold is increasing. "We have created 27 learning centers to replace the schools closed by the separatists", continues Banlav Eric Ngah, "in three large spaces specially designed for minors and involving a total of 1,000 children. We guarantee psychosocial support, school lessons (but they cannot teach history or geography because the Amba do not recognize the official government reconstruction and partition, editor's note). We go there twice a week but with many risks. To have a greater impact, however, we would need more opportunities to move and act and, above all, more resources. Resources are scarce. We also ask everyone to support us with donations because our work is essential until peace is restored". (LA) (Agenzia Fides, 20/6/2022)