Cameroon: Ongoing Sociopolitical Crisis and Covid-19 Pandemic

From Cameroon Sr Hedwig Vinyo, development officer of the Tertiary Sisters of St Francis at Shisong, sent this update on current developments in the country.

We bring you warm greetings from the Development Office of the Tertiary Sisters of St Francis, Shisong. With profound gratitude, we acknowledge the moral, technical and financial support you have given us to enable us realize our activities especially within the ending year 2020. In fact, your support has helped us to continue to be an empowering presence during these very challenging times caused by the ongoing sociopolitical crisis in Cameroon and the novel Covid-19 pandemic which affects our people, our health institutions and our religious communities very seriously.

At the moment the pandemic has calmed down but no one can tell for how long. The sociopolitical crisis on the other hand is very persistent. We wish to update you on the situation of the crisis which has been of paramount concern to us all and also to inform you of our project prospects for 2021 for your kind consideration.

The Anglophone crisis

The people of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have continued to suffer untold distress ensuing from the ongoing socio-political crisis in these regions. For 4 years, men, women and children in these regions have been living in constant fear. As a result of violent gun battles, arson attacks on houses and properties, arbitrary arrest, torture and incarceration of civilians, many have left the comfort of their homes to seek refuge in safer villages, regions and countries. Schools have been closed down for the last four years, in some areas partially while in others like Kumbo, the town where Shisong is located and where we have 3 major secondary high schools, the closure has been complete. We have only St. Francis Home for Skills Training that has not been closed for all these years.

At the moment, the consequences of this crisis are getting unbearable. Today, over 3,000 people have lost their lives, 60,000 presently seeking refuge in Nigeria and other nearby countries and close to a million internally displaced. A further analysis of the displaced population shows that more than 80% live in very appalling conditions with little or no access to potable water, food and medications. Among these people, majorities are women and children, relying only on aid from humanitarian and religious organizations for survival.

Recently, the unfolding of events within this crisis has been putting so much tension in the whole country and further abusing the essence of humanity. For instance, after the incident in Ngarbuh, North West region, where the military invaded the village, killed children and pregnant mothers, burnt their houses, another incident just occurred on the 24th of October 2020 in Kumba in the South West region. Unidentified gun men stormed a school and opened fire at school children killing 12 and injuring others. Adding to this, the rate of kidnappings for ransoms, police brutality and torture has significantly increased. Our Sisters have also been kidnapped and taken to “amba camps’ by the freedom fighters. We have been attacked in various communities and especially on the road when we travel, our hospitals have been openly attacked by the government military forces as well as amba fighters, we have lost property: the ambulance of the cardiac center was confiscated with all the equipment and medications, the one of Njinkom hospital was burnt to ashes with everything inside, the Doctor, Sisters and nurses beaten and forced to trek for long distances to reach the convent. At the moment not only the people are seriously traumatized, but also the sisters.

Unfortunately, even till now, the government is not taking any significant steps to end the crisis. Rather, more repressive actions are being taken like deploying more troops on the field who end up harassing and brutalizing the civilians. As religious and humanitarian workers, we have continued to pray and assist the victims in every way possible. Our hope is that a lasting solution to this crisis should be found as soon as possible.

Prospects for 2021

Our Development Office agenda for 2021 revolves around humanitarian, developmental and social projects within Africa with the objective of advancing health, education, livelihood and relief from poverty. As the days go by, the situation of victims of the ongoing crisis in Cameroon is getting worse amidst very deplorable living conditions of insufficient food, potable water and little or no medications for the sick ones. Others who have returned home are faced with a situation of shelter as many of them have lost their houses to arson attacks and thus have nowhere to stay. Furthermore, the plight of orphans and vulnerable children remain a call for concern. Many of these unaccompanied minors continue to move about the streets and bushes hopeless and challenged by the social circumstances which has been aggravated by the untimely death of their parents. These minors are in dire need of social support and reinstatement to regular life which is possible through counseling and vocational or general education. Besides the socio-political crisis, we are also concerned about the fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Hence this will constitute part of our thematic focus for 2021. While scientists around the world are working hard to develop a safe, and effective vaccine that can end this pandemic, we will keep mounting activities to prevent its spread in our communities. Our persistent efforts are necessary because this deadly virus is spreading with a very high infection rate and our communities are very fragile and economically weak to adopt the necessary preventive measures. Our support to help communities fight this virus through the strengthening of treatment facilities and preventive measures is thus very vital.

Finally, for 2021 we will also clinch on projects geared toward improving the quality of life and social integrity in various communities. Africa remains one of the poorest continents with the absence of basic social amenities being a big challenge. We will seek funds to support communities with these facilities and also strengthen the capacities of community members especially women whose development and empowerment have remained a powerful and sustainable engine for sustainable development.

Christmas and New Year wishes

We sincere regrets we acknowledge that the rate of the spread of the second phase of the corona virus in Europe and America is disheartening. We stand in great solidarity with all infected or affected. We all are. We are certain the Christ’s coming this Christmas will bring us renewed hope and health. Accept our best wishes for this Christmas and New Year 2021. May the coming of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ bring more blessings to you and your families. With your support and encouragement, we are determined to continue to seek for sustainable solutions to improve the living conditions of the poor and vulnerable population.

Sr Hedwig Vinyo tssf

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