COVID-19, a Huge Challenge for IDPs

COVID-19, a Huge Challenge for IDPs

The Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Cameroon have been going through untold hardship in their new settlements. These people, who have been displaced because of the Anglophone crisis, now live at the mercy of God and largess of people of good will, since they abandoned their sources of livelihood. 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 remain 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 March 17, 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 others who were engaged in some petty businesses like roasting of fish in front of some bars are now stranded 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.

According to Rose Arrey,a mother of 5, who is a widow  as a result of the Anglophone crisis, her house was razed in Mamfe, making her to relocate in Buea. “I am surviving because of the mercy of God. I can’t even feed my five children talk less of purchasing face masks, hand sanitizers and other things to prevent the coronavirus. We live in a single plank room and my children usually hawk fruits around town, to make small for our daily survival. With the coming of this virus, they no longer hawk and my small business which I usually carry out  at night, in front of a bar has crumbled, since all bars close at 6:00PM. The month is coming to an end and I don’t know how I will pay me rents.” Madamme Arrey’s ordeal is similar to that of most IDPs.

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.