Background of the Forgotten Humanitarian Crisis in Cameroon

The region around Lake Chad is considered to be one of the poorest regions in the world. According to the United Nations World Food Program, about every third inhabitant does not have enough food. The reasons are complex and multi-layered. Lake Chad, once the livelihood for many people, has shrunk by 90 per cent since 1960 due to drought and scarcity of rainfall related to climate change. The situation in the region has deteriorated for decades. However the urgent crisis has disappeared from public attention. The humanitarian crises in neighbouring countries like Central African Republic, Nigeria and Niger have displaced tens of thousands of people from their home Country. Despite Cameroon’s economic and political stability, many refugees have fled armed conflicts across the region.

Central African Republic is war-torn as two armed groups compete for power. In the Chad Sea region, the insurgent group Boko Haram spreads fear and terror. The civilian population is suffering as many houses have been destroyed and hunger crisis has loomed as crop fields, no longer tended to, have failed. Terrorist attacks and sudden and fierce bouts of violence have also made it even more difficult for humanitarian aid workers to reach and support suffering families, particularly young children and their mothers.

The UNHCR states that more than 350,000 refugees from the neighbouring countries have sought for shelter in Cameroon. Most of them – almost 260,000 – come from the Central African Republic and more than 90,000 refugees registered (numbers from April 2017) come from Nigeria, according to the Cameroon Humanitarian Situation Report. A further 30,000 are not yet registered. In addition, there is an increasing number of displaced persons within Cameroon itself.

In total, 40 per cent of the population in Cameroon live under the poverty line. In the north of the country, communities are under particular strain as there is no secure access to food, medical care or clean water. According to the United Nations, 2.9 million people are currently dependent on humanitarian aid.1.5 million of those who are dependent are children.