Cameroon in a fix as refugees troop in

The Gado Badzere refugee camp in eastern Cameroon. NDI EUGENE NDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

As tension grow in the Central African Republic, Salimane Oumarou has been busy. He has made many rounds in his Kilometre Five Hausa quarter in Cameroon, sensitising Muslims and Christians on the need for peaceful coexistence.

The 36-year-old father of three is among 24,000 CAR refugees living at the Gado Badzere refugee camp in eastern Cameroon. He still recalls how assailants attacked his village in 2014, destroyed their houses and killed villagers, forcing them to flee.

While the camp offers solace, life has not been easy.

“We do not have enough to eat. Food rations and medical supplies have been curtailed and we do not have income-generating activities to supplement the little we receive,” said Oumarou.

Venture outside

Tresor Mbo Mbaline, who was orphaned when rebels attacked their home in Bangui said besides the hunger, “it is difficult to find a job in the camp”.

The refugees are not allowed to venture outside the camp in search of jobs.

Equally, access to basic social services such as education, protection, water, sanitation and hygiene is a challenge.

The World Food Programme said that food rations were slashed by half a year ago “due to resource constraints”.

The United Nations says financial resources to support the needs on the ground were “fast decreasing,” as more refugees arrive from the volatile CAR. The total number of refugees in the country is above 300,000.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says about 70 per cent of the number were settled among the communities. The rest live in one of seven refugee sites.

Cameroon has also been grappling with more than 191,000 internally displaced persons, the result of a spillover from the sectarian violence in CAR and the Boko Haram terrorist group insurgency.

Cameroon’s eastern region borders the CAR. It has suffered a humanitarian crisis since 2014 when refugees began to troop in. It is one of the poorest of the country’s 10 administrative regions.

Highly underfunded

Cameroon’s Minister for Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Rene Emmanuel Sadi said Yaoundé needed the support of development partners and donors to meet the growing needs of the refugees and the local communities.

According to the UNHCR, only 21 per cent ($20.2 million) of the requested $94.2 million funding for Cameroon had been received as of August this year.

“It is an operation that is highly underfunded,” said the resident coordinator of the UN systems in Cameroon, Allegra Baiocchi.

“The refugees are worried because they see that assistance has been reducing, but there is not much we can do with 20 per cent funding.”

The Swiss ambassador to Cameroon Pietro Lazzeri described the refugee situation in Cameroon as being “very complex”.

“We will evaluate the situation [of CAR refugees in Cameroon] and see what can be done,” he said.

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