The UN estimates that there are close to 350,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) across the North West and South West who have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety from both separatist violence and military reprisals. Data is scarce but it is believed that a large proportion have formed informal settlements in forest areas and it is likely that they have extremely limited access to food, water, shelter and other basic survival needs, not to mention their increased vulnerability disease and exploitation. A large number of IDPs are residing with host families – many of the staff from both MBOSCUDA and NOWEFOR are themselves hosting friends and relatives – which puts immense pressure on communities as they share space, food and other resources.
The crisis has also affected our active project, ‘Bridging the Gap’ on a number of levels. Sali notes “in some communities particularly Kumbo, Nkambe, Mbengwi and Wum MBOSCUDA & NOWEFOR staff cannot visit such areas for fieldwork to do project monitoring or activities implementation. Some of the project beneficiaries in some of the communities have been internally displaced and so it is challenging to have access to them by our staff”. Activities that required people to travel to certain locations for workshops or meetings have not been possible due to the increased security risk, communication with participants and stakeholders has been interrupted, and many of the participants in workshops have since been displaced meaning that a follow up with them has not been possible. Despite this, we continue to be hopeful that the situation will ease up slightly, or that the community will adapt, to enable us to continue working to promote cultural and minority rights in the region.
Exclusion is one of the root causes of this crisis, and it is interesting that our seeks to reduce exclusion of Mbororo Fulani people by encouraging cultural dialogue and understanding and promoting cultural rights. However, socio-political issues can exacerbate existing interethnic tensions, and as a partnership we are in the process of discussing how we can respond to the crisis, either in a humanitarian capacity or by promoting social cohesion in the context of these now fragmented and volatile communities. In October, I travelled to Yaoundé to meet with UP Business Development Manager James Treasure Evans, MBOSCUDA Assistant Coordinator Sali Usmanu, and NOWEFOR Coordinator Germaine Njeh to discuss how we, as a partnership with a history of project implementation in the area, could respond to the situation. We had such a fruitful week of planning and analysing the results of a rapid needs assessment carried out by extension workers based in the 7 regions of the North West and put together a plan for a project focussing on the distribution of some basic items to IDPs, and capacity building of the local partners to implement humanitarian projects. Sadly we were not successful with our initial proposal, but we’re continuing to look for funding opportunities.
Watch this space!
This post was written by Programme Officer, Carmel Moran and Sali Django, MBOSCUDA Programme Director.