The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis that is in its 4th year today have been going through untold hardship in their new settlements. This is due to the fact that most of the IDPs now live at the mercy of God and largess of people of good will since they abandoned their sources of livelihood behind. Some of them helplessly saw their farmlands, shops and houses razed to ashes. In frustration and fright, they fled for safety to areas where they considered more secure.
In their new stations, the IDPs live under very miserable conditions –filthy and congested accommodation without any sure source of income or livelihood. Feeding, shelter, health care, clothing and the education of their children remains pre-occupying and the future apparently very bleak for them. In fact, the socio-economic impact of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis on the IDPs and even the host communities are far-reaching and despicable
In this misery and destitution, COVID-19 has come to compound their pains. The deadly pandemic has necessitated the implementation of some measures by the WHO and individual countries of the world. In her strife to contain the spread of the disease, a number of measures were taken on the 17th of March 2020 by the government of Cameroon—social distancing, suspension of schools, closure of bars, compulsory wearing of face masks among others.
Although the disease is no respecter of personalities, ethnicity, government or race, the vulnerability of the IDPs is indisputably high. How can social distancing be respected by seven people who share a small plank room? How can good hygiene be observed where water is as scarce as dog’s tears? How do people who sometimes cannot afford for bread or a cup of garri now afford for face masks and sanitizers? It should be mentioned that some of the IDPs had become sales persons in bars, and restaurants, while still others were roasting fish in front of some bars. Now with the closure of these places, life has suddenly become unbearable for the IDPs. In fact, the weight of the Anglophone crisis and CVID-19 is very heavy and suffocating to them.
Not only have most of the IDPs lost their little sources of survival but more painfully, their benefactors too. Necessary here to underscore that some of the IDPs’ rents were paid by relatives abroad who have now lost their jobs due to coronavirus. Consequently, they can’t continue to assist these IDPs, thus, aggravating the already precarious situation the more. Even humanitarian actors in Cameroon find it very difficult to carry on humanitarian activities as most of them now only work online.
In fact, the more than 700,000 IDPs in Cameroon are currently undergoing hard times. Their socio-economic conditions in our towns (both French and English speaking towns) are disheartening. The weeks or months ahead are extremely gloomy, full of uncertainty and hopelessness with so many questions on their lips.—“How are we going to pay rents?” “How do we feed?” “How do we pay bills?” “When is the pandemic going to end?” These are the most common worries raised by a good number of them that I meet daily. Indeed, COVID-19 is a veritable and huge challenge for the IDPs.