Cameroon is home to some 460,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of them women and children who have escaped violence in the Central African Republic and Nigeria. But while they have found safety in Cameroon, women refugees are not always welcomed by locals, and are struggling to survive.
Thirty-five-year-old Mairama Abba cleans her goat house at the Ngam refugee settlement on Cameroon’s eastern border with the Central African Republic, CAR
Mariama said she fled armed conflicts in the SAR in March 2015, after her husband and two children were killed in a crossfire between rebels and government troops.
Mairama said she and her two remaining children live peacefully at the Ngam refugee settlement in northern Cameroon and are not considering returning to their war-torn village called Nyem in the north of the KAR Mairama said money that she collects from the sale of chicken and sheep enables her to feed her children and to look after the children’s health needs.
Mairama said her first two years in Cameroon were some of the most difficult in her life as she and her children would be left without food and water for days. She said the UN Children’s Fund saved her children in 2016 from dying of malnutrition.
The UN and humanitarian agencies say Mairama is one of at least 350 women and girls in the Ngam refugee settlement who have since been trained to be independent.
Ohandja Claire Lydie is an official of a charity, the International Medical Corps. She said in addition to health care services, her organization provides training that helps refugee women and girls become less dependent on help.
She said several hundred refugee women and girls now know how to embroider, how to make soap, sew dresses and raise animals at home. She said before training, the women were educated about self-employment and psychologically prepared to save income that would enable the women to improve their living conditions and take good care of their families when they start working.
The World Bank and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provide what they call targeted support to refugees in the form of cash, under a program called Social Security Networks.
Amma Kouto said she was given $ 70 from the 2018 safety net scheme. She said she invested the money in selling palm oil and salt to refugees and Ngam villagers.
Koutok said she saved $ 300 in three years and bought a corn and rice flour grinder. She said their camp women’s association, assisted by the World Bank and UNICEF, was instrumental in improving the living conditions of refugee women, especially widows and women who do not know whether their husbands are dead or alive.
Host communities complain that refugees steal food and cattle, provoke conflicts over water sources, accommodation and farmland and cut down trees for firewood.
Helen Ngoh is a communications officer at UNHCR Cameroon. She said on this year’s World Refugee Day, UNHCR sought to persuade host communities to sympathize with the refugees.
“The vast majority of Central African refugees, about 330 000 Central African refugees are still here and they have security here in Cameroon. If you are forced to flee your home, you should be able to find security, so this year’s theme “of World Refugee Day) draws attention to the importance of people being forced to flee their homes in order to be safe,” Ngoh said.
On the Cameroonian state broadcaster CRTV, Ngoh refugees from both the CAR and Nigeria are afraid to return home due to violence in their home countries.
Meanwhile, UNHCR says less than 15 percent of the $ 154 million needed this year to help displaced Nigerians and Central Africans has been raised.