Cameroonian RefugeesBetween November 2022 and January 2023, hundreds of asylum seekers arrived on the shores of Antigua, a small island and alluring holiday destination in the West Indies. The refugees had traveled from Cameroon expecting to arrive in the United States. With poverty in Antigua affecting a fifth of the population, the arrival of more than 900 migrants in the country was unexpected. Three months later, the fate of the remaining 637 Cameroonian refugees in Antigua is still undetermined.

The Flight from Cameroon

Several thousand miles away from Antigua, across the Atlantic, a bloody six-year civil war is happening in Cameroon. At the end of last year, 900 Anglophone Cameroonians bought flight tickets from Nigeria to Antigua to escape the conflict. Many have paid human traffickers as much as $6,000 in return for safe passage to the United States and assistance with their visa applications. Instead, the traffickers abandoned refugees in Antigua.

The debacle followed an attempt by the government of Antigua and Bermuda to establish an air route between Central Africa and the twin island nation. After four charter planes and 900 unexpected refugees in Antigua, the government decided to suspend all incoming charter flights from Central Africa and announced its intention to repatriate those who had already come. It has since reversed its repatriation plan citing humanitarian reasons.

The Economic Situation in Antigua

The people of Antigua are more accustomed to welcoming tourists rather than asylum claimants. It is unclear how the presence of hundreds of Cameroonian refugees in Antigua, most of whose funds have been spent on charter flights, affects the communities with limited resources.

The overall rate of poverty in Antigua and Barbuda is high but it is 5% lower than the regional average of 23%. The rate is even higher among the young: 24% of children aged 0–17 and 25% of adolescents aged 10–19. Severe poverty is projected to increase in the Eastern Caribbean nation amid the continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and Hurricane Irma, which devastated the nation in 2017. According to figures gathered by UNICEF, the rate of severe poverty in Antigua’s overall population is due to rise sixfold up to 24%. For children, the projected figure is even higher at 29%.

Refugee Reception in Antigua

Local reports say that residents have shown hospitality to the Cameroonians despite the high poverty rate in the country. Governor General Sir Rodney Williams has stated that the government will look after the African refugees in Antigua. He said that Antigua was “committed to protecting all residents from exploitation and harsh treatment” and that “no foreign national, except for criminals, should fear deportation.”

Antigua’s Information Minister has promised a skills audit to “determine the benefits” of permitting the refugees in Antigua to stay. Melford Nicholas announced that “as the economy continues to expand, we’re going to need additional skills.” He also said that Antigua would provide the asylum seekers with accommodation and “find a way to give them legal status here.” He also expressed the hope that Antiguans would “embrace and have an open heart” to the Cameroonians. The government played down speculation of plans to offer passports to the arrivals after opposition parties voiced alarm. The United Nations (U.N.) is also planning an analysis of the situation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to determine the number of refugees in Antigua who wish to remain permanently.

What is Next?

With poverty as a serious and increasing problem in the Caribbean island, no one could have expected the arrival of 900 Cameroonian refugees in Antigua. While many of the refugees move on, some could end up settling in the country. It is expected that once the government’s skills audit is complete, the remaining Cameroonians will be free to contribute their skills to Antigua and improve its economy.

– Samuel Chambers
Photo: Pixabay

HIV/AIDs in Cameroon
One of the most prominent challenges citizens in Cameroon are facing today is the prevalence of HIV/AIDs throughout the country. With the national infection rate being 3.7% in 2021, achieving epidemic control continues to be a constant battle. However, with the help of foreign aid, NGOs and the proactive efforts of the Cameroonian government, the country is making progress toward this goal. Here are the most important things to know about the history of HIV/AIDs in Cameroon and the state of the prevention effort.

History and Demographics

Like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, there is a higher rate of individuals infected with HIV/AIDs in Cameroon than in most other parts of the world. The earliest reported case in Cameroon was in 1985 and by 1990 the country had an estimated 49,000 infected individuals. This number increased every year until it peaked at an estimated 520,000 cases in 2012. Since then, the annual rate has slowly but steadily declined to an estimated 500,000 cases in 2021.

Though many children have HIV/AIDs in Cameroon, people 15 years or older are by far the most common and represent an estimated 460,000 of the 500,000 currently infected, according to UNAIDS. Within the adult over 15 cohort, women are more than twice as likely to have HIV/AIDs than men.

Prevention and US Support

The first measure the government of Cameroon took to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDs was the establishment of the National AIDS Control Committee (NACC) in 1986. Its function was to facilitate cooperation between prevention efforts nationally. It expanded its efforts further in 2000 when it launched the first of three five-year plans to prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDs in the country.

There has also been a myriad of U.S.-backed efforts to help assist in the prevention effort. For example, in 2008 the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) partnered with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health as well as a host of NGOs to assist in the fight against HIV/AIDs. Through this collaboration the CDC aimed at “providing technical leadership on HIV epidemic control efforts within the country” but eventually expanded its operations to also include “direct clinical support” and help “scale-up access to HIV prevention and treatment services.”

Additionally, USAID has backed and helped execute a variety of HIV/AIDs prevention plans in Cameroon through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). A few of these initiatives are The Continuum of Prevention, Care and Treatment (CoPCT) of HIV/AIDS with Most-at-Risk Populations in Cameroon (CHAMP), Reaching Impact, Saturation, and Epidemic Control (RISE) and Community-Led Monitoring (CLM).

In general, PEPFAR programs aim to mitigate the spread of HIV/AIDs in Cameroon through education, community outreach, reliable data collection and strengthening existing government and non-governmental healthcare agencies.

Looking Forward

Though it may seem like a sign of inefficacy that total infection numbers have only gone down by a small margin since 2012, it is important to remember that epidemics tend to grow exponentially and that the population of Cameroon has been increasing steadily at a high rate for the past several decades. With this in mind, a stagnated or only marginally decreased total infection figure is actually quite an accomplishment, as the government has to account for an enormous increase in population and the spread of infectious diseases is notoriously difficult to subdue.

Further, aid from countries like the U.S. was undoubtedly instrumental in achieving this feat and continued international support will be necessary as the national government continues to battle HIV/AIDs in Cameroon.

– Xander Heiple
Photo: Unsplash

Helping Single Mothers
Around the world, 13% of women are single mothers with children under 15-year-old, according to research. However, in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, there are 25% and 32% of single mothers, respectively. One direct consequence caused by single motherhood is child poverty and this correlation between child poverty and single mothers do not exist without reasons. For instance, since single mothers tend to have relatively lower incomes, their children are unlikely to receive complete education, limiting their career options. In turn, this makes the single mothers and their offspring more difficult to escape poverty, thereby forming a poverty cycle. Yet, some international organizations are helping single mothers by providing guidance and support, both mentally and financially. 

Littleones (Japan)

Among the 34 OECD countries, Japan has the highest poverty rate for single mothers. Approximately 48% of single-mother families have no more than 500,000 yen or $3,500 USD of savings. Despite the depressing figures, there is the NGO, Littleones, meaning “little children.” According to the organization, its objective is to support children in both big and small ways since “children are the hope of the future.”

Focusing on single families in Tokyo, Littleones helps needy families in three different ways. First, to organize social events such as hiking and Christmas parties, allowing mothers to build friendships and establish solidarity. Second, to advise mothers on issues including education, legal matters and employment opportunities. Third, to help those mothers to find suitable housing.

Empowering Young African Single Mothers (EYASM) (Cameroon)

In Cameroon, it is common to find many single mothers between their 20s and 30s. Single mothers live in poverty and the public also discriminates against them. However, the government has not done much to help single mothers. Therefore, Empowering Young African Single Mothers has taken the lead. Similar to Littleones, EYASM believes that “children of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” Such conviction leads the NGO to a series of objectives, for example, to help children break the poverty cycle and encourage single mothers to establish self-reliance, self-esteem and self-awareness.

One interesting project that EYASM did in 2020 was the Single Mothers Empowerment Contest, in which the top five winners received money as prizes. The purpose of this was to encourage single mothers to become entrepreneurs for livelihood. 

Korean Unwed Mothers Families Association (KUMFA) (South Korea)

The conventional social conceptions in Korean society make single mothers harder to sustain themselves and their families – the public perceives them as sexually promiscuous. Consequently, finding a stable job becomes a challenge for unwed mothers. Yet, the government does not provide sufficient financial support to them. According to the National Statistical Office and Bank of Korea, while the monthly income of the average Korean family was 4 million won in 2017 or $3,640 USD, only 200,000 won or $180 USD a month for single parents with an income of less than 1.55 million or $1,400 USD.

KUMFA aims to protect the maternal rights of single mothers and establish a support network for the mothers to exchange information. Moreover, the NGO also practically helps single mothers – providing shelter for them and their children.

Hong Kong Federation Of Women’s Centers (HKFWC)  (Hong Kong)

According to the government’s thematic report on single parents in 2016, Hong Kong had approximately 56,515 single mothers, with an average monthly income of 12,000 HKD or $1,520 USD.

Similar to other organizations, HKFWC understands the need to establish a community for single mothers. Calling the project “You’re Not Alone,” the organization matches volunteers with the same background as single mothers, forming a more personal relationship.

Looking Ahead

Overall, it is more challenging for children coming from single-parent households to break the poverty chain. However, international organizations are helping single mothers, changing the lives of many single-parent families.

Mimosa Ngai
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Binance’s New Hub
Binance is the world’s leading trader of cryptocurrencies. Binance is seeking to open a new hub that will provide jobs to Cameroonians and educate locals on cryptocurrencies. Cryptocurrencies are internet-based currencies without one controlling authority to maintain them. Many seek them out in Africa because they explore economic possibilities many Africans are not privy to due to lacking credit history. Binance’s new hub has the chance to offer jobs in an economically bountiful field.

Cryptocurrency in Africa

Cryptocurrency has been gaining traction in Africa as a potential way to improve nations’ economic standings, but they are not new to Africa. In Africa, the Central Republic of Africa adopted cryptocurrency as its main currency in April 2022. Other African nations have their forms of cryptocurrency, such as Kenya’s M-Pesa (mobile pesa) or Nigeria’s eNaira, a digital version of its currency. The Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, publicly stated his hopes and expectations that adopting the eNaira will boost Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product by $29 billion.

It is not an unrealistic expectation because the African cryptocurrency market earned an additional $109 billion by the end of 2021. Cryptocurrency requires a significant alteration to the current infrastructure, which Africa has struggled to build due to its long history of colonialism and civil wars. The lack of infrastructure has left many without banking services. However, cryptocurrencies do not require a direct line to one regional bank. Cryptocurrencies are an international phenomenon that people can connect to with their smartphones. Internet and communications connectivity have been growing in Africa, and the hard work of developing the tech infrastructure in Africa has paid off. Jobs are emerging in the tech sector every day, and cryptocurrency use in Africa will provide another economic boost. Binance’s new hub will be a leader in the development and creation of tech and connecting urban and rural Cameroonians.

Poverty in Cameroon

Poverty is an overwhelming factor in everyday life for Cameroonians. About 55% of Cameroon’s population lives in poverty. There are many factors, one of which is that the country has a rather undiversified economic portfolio. Cameroon’s income and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) rely on the agriculture sector. Agriculture accounts for 15% of the GDP and 62% of the workforce.

The lack of infrastructure that has been a lingering problem for significant portions of Africa is still a concern in Cameroon. Cameroon struggles with infrastructure because they do not have the funding to solve its infrastructure issues. Infrastructure in Cameroon is an expensive endeavor. To make matters worse, the Cameroon government, which many sources cite as weak, does not have the proper funding to fully develop the nation’s infrastructure. Infrastructure costs Cameroon $930 million annually. Unfortunately, Cameroon loses $586 million of its infrastructural costs due to infrastructural inefficiencies.

Despite what the numbers might say on the surface, Cameroon’s economy has strengthened, and the thought of escaping poverty is a little more real. One of the Cameroon sectors that has found footing and increased its annual earnings is the gas and oil industry. The gas and oil industry earned $465,293,665 at the end of April 2022. This sector has become more reliant and has proven valuable to residents as the income generates economic flow and will decrease regional poverty. The strengthening economy and potentially improving infrastructure are what have convinced international Bitcoin/cryptocurrency operator Binance to move operations into Cameroon. Binance’s new hub will provide diversification to Cameroon’s economic needs. It will help modernize them to make the country more attractive to international investors.

Technology and Introducing Cryptocurrency in Cameroon

Binance’s new hub comes after the company looked at  Cameroon and saw the unlocked potential of Cameroon’s tech world. The new hub will be in Yaoundé, to be a hub for Cameroon businesses. The tech world of Cameroon is still in its developmental stages. Technology is an up-and-coming sector for Cameroon’s businesses. It is one of the more sought-after fields to lift Cameroon’s GDP and boost the economy. Many of the users and developers of the new tech sector are without proper funding to create the promising economic future economists see if Cameroon’s tech world can boom.

One of the best ways for Cameroon to create the tech sector is by starting with cryptocurrency. Unfortunately, Cameroon does not regulate cryptocurrency yet and remains an illegal currency. The economic benefits of spreading cryptocurrency in Cameroon, though, are numerous. Introducing any legalized cryptocurrency in Cameroon will create connectivity among regions, one of the causes of poverty in Cameroon. Digital money should provide new opportunities for the government to settle its debts too. Cryptocurrency will force new policy initiatives to regulate the cryptocurrency sector of the economy. Cryptocurrency’s introduction into Cameroon will provide further benefits as cryptocurrency’s spread will require jobs for people to act as traders, internet connectivity engineers, brokers and more.

Looking Ahead

Binance’s new hub will educate Cameroonians on cryptocurrency. It will help them develop their economic portfolios with hands-on experienced cryptocurrency brokers. Binance wants Cameroonians to see the benefits and all the available resources cryptocurrency can create. The goal is for Binance’s new hub to become a cultural center that unites Cameroonians and improves how foreign investors look at Cameroon. Overall, the economic benefits of cryptocurrency and Binance’s new hub are countless. With cryptocurrency, Cameroon will see economic growth, decreasing poverty rates, increased foreign investments and the feasibility of finding income with Binance’s new hub.

– Clara Mulvihill
Photo: Flickr

The nation of Cameroon is a Central African country with a population numbering roughly 27 million. Cameroon is categorized as a lower-middle-income country, with the COVID-19 pandemic having a considerable impact on its economy. Cameroon is currently facing a humanitarian crisis, with almost 4 million people in need of humanitarian aid amid continuing violence due to the Boko Haram insurgency in Cameroon and increasing numbers of refugees entering the nation. In specific, five charities operating in Cameroon aim to address the humanitarian crisis.

5 Charities Operating in Cameroon

  1. CARE International. CARE International is a nonprofit organization that has provided essential aid and assistance to Cameroon since 1978. The organization aims to address lack of access to water, food insecurity, disease outbreaks and environmental degradation. In Cameroon’s northern region, CARE International worked to “distribute emergency cash and health kits, promote community hygiene and nutrition and construct shelters,” according to CARE’s website. CARE International reached 5,849 people through crisis response initiatives in 2021, with a direct impact on more than 144,000 people across all programs.
  2. UNICEF. To address the humanitarian needs that Cameroon’s population is facing, UNICEF requires $76 million in funding to achieve its 2022 goals. The funding is most urgently needed in the areas of food and nutrition, child safety and protection as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). In terms of health, UNICEF aims to provide measles vaccinations to more than 190,000 children in Cameroon. Additionally, UNICEF aims to treat more than 64,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
  3. Hope For Children Cameroon. Hope For Children Cameroon assists communities through education, sanitation and nutritional support programs. In its continued work, Hope For Children Cameroon has increased the quality of life of more than “3,000 children, youth, men and women.” Education is the charity’s prime focus, with projections that the continent of Africa will be home to more than one billion youth by 2030. To prepare for this future eventuality, Hope For Children encourages donors to support the Adopt a School Project, which aims to secure assistance to complete infrastructure and supply resources to provide education for Cameroonian youth.
  4. World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP is a U.N. food assistance organization that assists in combating food insecurity and malnutrition while providing related support to people throughout the globe. In Cameroon, the WFP estimates that more than 55% of the nation endures poverty, struggling to meet their basic needs, especially in rural areas. Through cash-based transfers, the WFP reduces food insecurity among families. The cash transfers also benefit local businesses and spur growth in local economies. Providing the necessary help on the ground is organized through the assistance of the U.N. Humanitarian Air Service, which has an approved budget of more than $5.7 million in 2022 for assistance to Cameroon.
  5. Action Against Hunger. Action Against Hunger has worked to address issues relating to food insecurity in Cameroon since 2014. Since it began its work in Cameroon, the organization has assisted in “treating [more than] 60,000 children and 28,000 pregnant and breastfeeding women” through mobile clinics, the organization’s website says. In 2020, Action Against Hunger reached 600,000 people through programs and initiatives.

Looking to the Future

Cameroon’s immediate needs for food, water, sanitation and disease prevention remain the most crucial obstacles to solve for charities operating in Cameroon today. Addressing the current humanitarian crisis amid violence and instability is essential to safeguard the well-being of citizens.

James Garwood
Photo: Flickr

Sahel’s Rising Food Insecurity
The Sahel is a semi-arid region in Africa that comprises countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, environmental disasters and the high cost of food as a result of the Ukraine-Russia war have contributed to the Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty. On May 20, 2022, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that, over the following three months, 18 million people living in the Sahel region will be “on the edge of severe hunger.” This warning prompted a strong international response from wealthier countries to provide financial and food aid to the Sahel region.

African heads of state convened a regional summit on May 27, 2022, “to address growing humanitarian needs on the continent.” The heads identified violent extremism, military coups and environmental challenges as the main contributors to the Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty. Non-African countries, such as the United States, are also addressing the Sahel crisis by providing food aid through government-run development programs in the Sahel. The U.N. and its agencies are also tackling rising poverty in the Sahel through financial assistance and food delivery.

Specific Issues for People Living in the Sahel Region

The Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty have led to devastating human costs such as “high levels of acute malnutrition” and “large gaps” in food consumption within households. Furthermore, because the cost of living has increased dramatically, families in the Sahel are now selling their own household items, such as farm tools, in order to afford food and other essential items. As a result of the rising food costs, environmental disasters and violence, the number of Africans pushed into food poverty in the Sahel is increasing. For example, in the Sahel, 1.8 million children suffer malnourishment. Without intervention, this could increase to 2.4 million by the close of 2022.

Regional Solutions to Addressing Sahel’s Food Insecurity and Poverty

The African Union (AU) has declared 2022 the AU’s Year of Nutrition and held the “Extraordinary Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference” on May 27, 2022. The main goal of the summit is to address malnutrition in the African region, which “causes significant long-term consequences for physical, mental, cognitive and physiological development.” UNICEF has been urging African governments to tackle a wide range of issues, such as “inadequate maternal nutrition” and “high incidence of childhood illnesses.”

How Wealthier Countries are Tackling Sahel’s Poverty Crisis

On May 18, 2022, the United States announced that it will allocate $215 million to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to tackle food insecurity globally. This includes tackling the Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty, with food assistance going to countries such as Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Nigeria. USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture will “program the full balance” of the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust, a grain and food reserve within USAID, “as part of an effort to provide $670 million in food assistance” to the Sahel countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan and South Sudan.

Assistance from International Organizations and UN Agencies

The U.N. is approaching Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty as an international emergency situation. On May 20, 2022, OCHA delivered $30 million in emergency funds to four countries in the Sahel to address malnutrition and hunger. OCHA gave Burkina Faso $6 million and Chad, Mali and Niger received $8 million each. Prior to this recent contribution, OCHA had delivered $4 million to Mauritania and $15 million to Nigeria earlier in 2022.

The swift international response to Sahel’s rising food insecurity and poverty illustrates the potential of the international community to eliminate global poverty. Despite the massive impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine-Russia war on providing humanitarian assistance, the U.N. has managed to allocate enough funds to combat starvation in the Sahel. The United States has increased its funding for global food security operations in the Sahel and made the situation one of its top foreign policy priorities. All of this proves that the international community continues to act on food insecurity and poverty, even in the most vulnerable places in the world. This makes global poverty reduction a reachable goal, creating hope for disadvantaged countries.

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Violence Against Women in Cameroon
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to make headlines, several other global challenges have come to light as a result. Like with many widespread concerns, crises often intensify the reality of serious issues. This is true regarding violence against women in Cameroon. While violence against women in Cameroon has attracted more attention since the beginning of the pandemic, its existence far precedes COVID-19. However, it is important to recognize that the implications of the current global pandemic worsen the intensity of gender-based violence.

Growing Violence Over Time

Data from 2012 reveals that 51% of women in Cameroon faced some sort of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime. According to a 2019 research paper on gender equality in Cameroon, “56.4% of women in [a] union” face some form of violence. Furthermore, discrimination against women in Cameroon extends beyond gender-based violence. For example, 51.5% of women in Cameroon live below the poverty line in comparison to 39% of the general population. Moreover, 80% of women who live below the poverty line endure underemployment. Although COVID-19 is not a root cause of violence against women in Cameroon, it raises awareness regarding the severity of the matter. This growing global recognition draws attention to efforts addressing gender-based violence in the country and beyond.


Women in Action Against Gender Based Violence (WACameroon) began in 2005 as an organization centered around advancing human rights. WACameroon’s main focus is to advocate for a society in which everybody respects and upholds the rights of all. This includes improving the lives of impoverished women and other marginalized groups in Cameroon. WACameroon’s main objectives are:

  1. To encourage peacekeeping and the upholding of human rights.
  2. To create “action-oriented” initiatives to mitigate “gender-based violence and discrimination.”
  3. Improving the health of Cameroon’s population, specifically as it concerns HIV/AIDS.
  4. Ensuring the sustainability of both “natural and human resources.”
  5. Strengthening governance and democracy nationwide.

WACameroon’s efforts have seen success. The organization was able to improve girls’ access to education and female school completion rates while mobilizing “men as partners in the struggle for gender equality.” In addition, WACameroon helped facilitate “access to productive resources [for impoverished women].” With regard to gender-based violence, in particular, WACameroon “empowers perpetrators of [gender-based violence] to become advocates of gender equality.” The organization also empowers women with the confidence and assertiveness to enforce their rights. In 2010, the organization gained international recognition: International Service U.K. presented WACameroon with an International Human Rights award for its work in empowering people in Cameroon.

Opportunity Moving Forward

Violence against women in Cameroon brings more than just physical harm. The lasting effects of gendered violence bring along psychological challenges that can last a lifetime. While addressing these problems requires considerable time and effort, increased support from global organizations is an essential first step in demonstrating that individuals are not alone in their struggles. With the work of organizations like WACameroon, there is a growing awareness of the urgency for resources and aid in addressing violence against women in Cameroon.

– Chloé D’Hers
Photo: Flickr

Great Green Wall
Refugees in Northern Cameroon have “planted 360,000 seedlings” since 2018 to combat desertification in the Minawao refugee camp. The refugees grew the “Great Green Wall” with help from their host communities, the U.N. and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The Dutch Postcode Lottery funded the project with $2.7 million as part of an initiative to plant a continent-wide, 8,000-kilometer barrier of trees to prevent desertification, land degradation and drought. The Great Green Wall now provides ample shade to refugee families in Minawao, allowing them to grow crops and support themselves with a sustainable food supply.

Education and Execution

The Great Green Wall project began with educating the refugees in Minawao on how to plant seedlings using “cocoon technology,” which Land Life Company developed to protect seedlings against harsh environments. Cocoon technology functions by burying water tanks made of recycled cartons in donut shapes around plants’ roots. As a result, the plants have steady access to water, which the plants receive through a string that connects to the water tank. Knowledge of how to plant and sustain seedlings allowed the refugees in Minawao to plant trees in the area without relying too heavily on outside coordinators for help. With the assistance of LWF and the United Nations, the Cameroonian refugees were able to plant a thriving forest to support crops and life in an area that was once bare and dry.

The Wall’s Impact

More than 70,000 refugees have fled to Minawao since 2014 to escape violence from the militant group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria. When the large groups of refugees first arrived in Minawao, the area’s desertification worsened, largely because refugees cut down the few remaining trees in order to survive. The Great Green Wall project committed to addressing deforestation, desertification and land degradation in the area by planting more than 100 hectares, the equivalent of 250 football fields, of trees. Trees from the Great Green Wall project now provide shade, improve soil quality and attract water, all of which improve the quality of life for the refugees living in Minawao.

Development and Sustainability

The next step in the Great Green Wall project is to expand upon its growth and sustainability. The U.N. and LWF are working together to address challenges that arise, in part through reforestation and raising awareness about how the project and planting processes work. LWF has also created a strategy to promote more sustainable energy sources, including eco-friendly briquettes. Briquettes are energy-efficient and pollution-reducing alternatives to firewood. Many women have found new sources of income because of the eco-friendly charcoal, which they sell to refugees and surrounding communities.

The Great Green Wall project is still in progress, but so far, it has provided better living conditions to thousands of refugees in Minawao, Cameroon. Other countries may look to the project as an example of the benefits that arise from addressing desertification in refugee camps. Sustainable reforestation does not only benefit the environment — it can transform communities, offer economic opportunities and improve quality of life.

– Cleo Hudson
Photo: Flickr

According to UNHCR, about 20 people become displaced with each passing minute of each day, fleeing “persecution, conflict, violence or human rights violations.” At least 84% of these people flee to underdeveloped countries that already struggle with limited resources. In 2019, a rough estimate of 2 million people fled from their homes due to conflict in Nigeria. In just two months, 55,000 people became displaced with no place to call home. Many of these people sought refuge in Cameroon’s Minawao camp. Poverty and hunger disproportionately impact displaced persons and refugees, calling for solutions to assist these vulnerable people.

Minawao Camp

Minawao camp is a refugee settlement located in Cameroon, Africa. Since 2013, Minawao has been home to refugees fleeing the violence of their home country, Nigeria. By 2019, the camp became home to more than 60,000 Nigerian refugees. The violence in Nigeria largely stems from the activities of the Islamic militant group Boko Haram. The violence of the group ranges from terrorist attacks on the military to brutalities against civilians. Millions of Nigerians fear for themselves and their families, still traumatized by the memory of Boko Haram’s abduction of 276 schoolgirls in 2014, some of whom are still missing.

Minawao camp initially emerged with the purpose of holding a maximum of 15,000 refugees. With many refugees continuously flowing in, the camp struggles to provide for thousands in an area where desertification is prevalent and water, food and resources are already scarce. Additionally, the land suffers from deforestation due to the fact that people in the area use the trees for firewood.

Cameroon, in general, grapples with its own struggles. In some parts of Cameroon, people suffer the impacts of “years of successive natural disasters and below average harvests.” In 2015, the United Nations Children’s Fund oversaw a survey that reported an increased rate of malnutrition based on past data from 2013 and 2014.

Making Minawao Green Again

Despite Minawao’s past struggles, organizations are making efforts to secure a future for the inhabitants of the camp. A reforestation project beginning in 2017 aims to “make Minawao green again” by planting thousands of trees. The greenery will provide benefits such as access to cleaner energy, food, enriched soil, water, reforestation, jobs and more.

The Lutheran World Federation sponsored the reforestation project, with support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Nationale Postcode Loterij. Since launching the project, the community has planted 50,000 trees with the intention of planting 5,000 more trees each year. The trees will provide shaded areas to make life more comfortable for residents, considering the extreme heat in Cameroon.

As far as shelter, the program provides a better alternative to living conditions such as brick homes. The brick homes are more sustainable than the average tent. As many as 4,670 households now have eco-friendly stoves. Instead of burning wood, briquettes made from peanut shells, wheat husks and other agricultural waste are substitutes. The program has established “three tree nurseries” as well as “12 new nature clubs” for adults and children to “learn new skills” and understand the value of protecting the environment. The program has led to the creation of 175 employment opportunities, empowering people in the camp with incomes to improve their quality of life.

Slowly but surely, these efforts are paving the way for a bright future for people within the Minawao camp.

– Destiny Jackson
Photo: Flickr

Cameroon’s anglophone regions have been stuck in a civil war involving the government and separatist groups. Beginning in October 2016, this war is continuing to take a severe toll on Cameroon’s civilians. The Anglophone Crisis has a devastating effect on poverty in the region. Additionally, the crisis ruined livelihoods and caused several civilian casualties.

Historically, the British and the French governed Cameroon. However, in 1972, French Cameroon assumed executive control over the entire region, including the British sector. As a result, the Anglophone Cameroonians found themselves slowly shrinking in power. A protest by the Anglophone Cameroonians in 2016 resulted in a lethal response from the Francophone government. Subsequently, it set off the Anglophone Crisis. A group of Anglophone separatists declared independence in a region called Ambazonia.

Civilians in the Crossfire

At least 4,000 civilians died as a result of the Anglophone Crisis, and the crisis displaced far more. Throughout the region, citizens have witnessed the burning of buildings, the kidnapping of their neighbors and the destruction of homes. Those who survive escape to live in the jungle or seek refuge in neighboring countries, often living on little to no food, water and money.

Originally, the cycle of conflict was repetitive: a radical separatist would incite an attack on the Francophone military, and the military would respond by going after the separatists in a frenzy. However, several recent Anglophone attacks shifted to target civilians. Francophone government security forces are also consistently unafraid to abuse any civilians suspected of having separatist connections.

Humanitarian Concerns

There are human rights abuses coming from both sides of the Anglophone Crisis. However, providing aid to the region is extremely difficult. The Francophone government has a complex and tough procedure that organizations must go through in order to receive approval. Additionally, these organizations also have to negotiate with separatist groups. However, both sides are kidnapping aid workers due to suspected collusion.

As more and more people experience displacement, it is increasingly more difficult for these civilians to find assistance. In particular, the healthcare system in Cameroon is in shambles. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this becomes especially dangerous. The United Nations has reported that nearly 20% of healthcare facilities are no longer functioning. The organization Doctors Without Borders was running a free ambulance system that has completed thousands of referrals. However, the organization suspended the program in the Ambazonia region in December 2020.

Peace Movements

A movement of grassroots peace activists, largely women, attempt to end the Anglophone Crisis following the breakdown of official talks between the two sides. They do not have the prowess or protection that the international mediators have. However, they do have the benefit of being local. They understand the conflict in a way that outside groups do not, and they work on multiple facets of peace. Groups worked to soften a school boycott that disrupted children’s education for years. Also, they helped former fighters of the conflict re-integrate back into society.

Peacemaking is still dangerous, and many people on either side do not want it to happen. These activists are subject to arrest, abduction and torture from both the Anglophones and Francophones. Despite the risks, their work is incredibly important. With their goals of social cohesion and healing, these peace activists bring hope to a dark period of time.

– Jessica Li
Photo: Flickr