Anglophone Crisis: Persons living with disabilities caught in the crossfire

Anglophone Crisis: Persons living with disabilities caught in the crossfire

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The Anglophone Crisis which has endured for four years now and counting have had damaging consequences to locals, businesses, economy, cultural, educational and all aspects of life in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. Apart from the lost of lives and displacements, the crisis has brought untold suffering on the masses. The Anglophone has led to the death of 3,000 civilians and hundreds of Cameroon’s soldiers. The UN estimates that more than 700,000 people have been internally displaced while 60,000 refugees are in Nigeria as a result of the long conflict according to the UNHCR.

Many are now fighting for space with animals in the wild. They don’t have a choice though, for it is said “home is where love reside, memories are created, friends always belong and laughter never ends”.  Many locals would rather stay in bushes where they see their friends and loved ones rather than staying in places where their lives and that of their loved ones can be taken away at any given opportunity by the warring parties

Amongst the many people affected by the crisis, are disabled persons, who like many has no slightest idea of how the crisis started. They  are one of the worst affected persons with regards to the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon.

 Those with physical disabilities find it difficult to flee from their homes in case of attacks. Samuel Nyingcho who is the head of the coordinating unit of associations with persons living with disabilities told RFI that, “A good number of disabled persons have lost their lives and properties and their houses have been burnt… Almost all have lost good number of economic activities as well as education”. The unit leader also revealed how hypertension because of trauma has affected other disabled people.

Emina Cerimovica senior disability rights researcher at Human Rights Watch in a statement released in 2019, said “peoples with disabilities are among the most marginalized and at-risk population in any crisis-affected country and Cameroon is no exception”.

According to the report by Human Right Watch, some disabled persons testified that, their relatives and caretakers abandon them in situations that prompt them to run. While others say they simply asked them to go without them since they may be slowed down because of them.

These are some of the problems faced by disabled persons leaving in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. A very disturbing factor is Stigmatization faced by others. Inhabitants of some areas turn to stigmatize these disabled persons because of their situations which may bring about low confidence and self-esteem. According to a 36-year-old mother of a child with disability, who arrived Bamenda after fleeing from her home in Bali Bawock “I had so much difficulty carrying my child on my back when we fled for safety. There is too much stigma on persons with disabilities. No one wants to host a child who drools all the time and still uses diapers at the age of 7. People reject us” she told Human Right Watch.

A 41-year-old man with a physical disability said he lost his wheelchair after soldiers burned his home in Kumbo, North-West region, on December 3, 2018: “My house was razed. I was lucky I could escape thanks to a friend who carried me. But I lost everything, including my wheelchair, and now I have no means to move myself around independently.”

When it comes to humanitarian aid, persons living with disabilities are the least who benefit from it, though they need it the most. Those living in urban and semi-urban centers may benefit from humanitarian aid but those living in enclave zones are simply excluded from the much needed help. Only 9 of the 45 people with disabilities interviewed by Human  Right Watch had humanitarian assistance. In all these cases but one, aid was distributed by local charities in urban centers. Displaced people taking shelter in isolated areas have little to no access to aid because of security issues.

Human Right Watch says more than 20 people living with disabilities have been killed by the Cameroon military since the beginning of the Anglophone Crisis in 2016. A case in point is a 27-year-old man with intellectual disabilities that was shot dead at a gas station by gendarmes in Ndu, North-West region, on December 24, 2018.  

The Anglophone Crisis is getting worst with constant killings and kidnappings, looting and burning of homes. The future for every person in the regions hangs in the balance. Calls to end the conflict have intensified but still falling on deaf ears as wastill unwilling to silence the guns and give peace a chance.

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