Cameroon Multi-Country Office
Operation: Cameroon Multi-Country Office
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|2020 year-end results|
|70,684||people of concern benefitted from shelter assistance (61,538 IDPs and 9,146 refugees)|
|58,897||refugee children had access to education in Cameroon (28% of registered refugee children)|
|45,372||identity documents were issued to Nigerian refugees|
|40%||of people of concern had free access to national/government primary health care facilities|
|14||litres of potable water were available on average per person per day|
|11||liters per person per day for some 117,422 Nigerian refugees in the Far North region|
|17||liters per person per day for 316,128 Central African Repubic refugees in East, Adamoua and North regions|
|2021 planning figures|
|10,000||refugees who expressed a desire to return to their country of origin will benefit from facilitated voluntary return in dignity and safety|
|100%||of primary school-aged refugee children will benefit from free education and government support on the same basis as Cameroon nationals|
|38%||of economically-active people of concern will be supported through agricultural value chains in agroforestry, bio-fuel production and micro, small and medium enterprises|
People of Concern
Cameroon Multi-Country Office
Operational contextIn line with its long history of providing asylum to refugees, Cameroon hosted some 1.96 million people of concern to UNHCR, including some 436,400 Nigerian and Central African refugees in the Far North and Eastern border regions, respectively. UNHCR's access to refugees in Cameroon remained unchanged with the Government guaranteeing full access to international protection, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and the conflict in the Central African Republic which triggered the arrival of nearly 6,000 refugees by year end. The operation registered zero cases of refoulement despite closure of the border with the Central African Republic due to COVID-19 preventive measures. The country also had over 1 million IDPs concentrated in the North-West, South-West and the Far North regions where conflict and instability significantly impacted UNHCR’s access and response to IDPs.
Towards the end of the year, UNHCR undertook a verification exercise in urban areas for refugees and asylum-seekers in Yaoundé. This allowed for the verification and renewal of documentation for 36,962 urban refugees (the exercise will continue during the first two months of 2021).
Considering the decentralisation process ongoing in Cameroon, UNHCR closely coordinated with territorial authorities for a progressive inclusion of refugees in local development planning processes, while promoting community-based protection activities to empower both refugees and host communities. Authorities also played a leading role in the development and validation of the national action plan to end statelessness.
Gabon saw the arrival of mixed populations by sea during the year. In response, authorities established coordination mechanisms with UN agencies for the management of mixed population movements.
Population trendsBy the end of 2020, Cameroon was host to approximately 1.96 million people of concern, including some 1 million IDPs across the country (711,056 in the North-West and South-West and 321,886 in the Far North Region).
- There were 316,128 refugees from the Central African Republic across the country, and 117,422 Nigerian refugees in the Far North region.
- UNHCR facilitated the voluntary repatriation of 2,000 Central African refugees from the Eastern region and 48 refugees from urban areas.
- 329 individuals (101 cases) were submitted for resettlement consideration; 103 individuals (30 cases) were accepted for resettlement and left for third-country resettlement.
- Gabon hosted 482 refugees and 80 asylum-seekers in a situation of prolonged displacement.
- Despite its temporary suspension due to COVID-19, UNHCR and the national technical Secretariat for refugees registered 39,917 refugees and 948 asylum-seekers.
- UNHCR reinforced the capacity of the Government’s Eligibility and Appeals Commissions in relation to refugee status determination: out of 948 total cases processed (1,542 people), 845 cases were recognized as refugees; 102 cases rejected; and one case retained refugee status.
- UNHCR worked to ensure access to civil and civil status documentation for all people of concern. In coordination with district and regional offices of the National Bureau of Civil Status, refugees and IDPs received 49,266 civil and civil status documents: 3,981 asylum-seekers' certificates; 10,525 refugee cards; 24,529 Certificates of Family Composition; 78 identity cards for IDPs; and 10,153 birth certificates and birth attestations for refugees and IDPs (also through the late registration procedure). Of these totals, 10,131 refugees children received birth and late registration (160% of UNHCR’s target); and 74,408 refugees received identity documents (114% of the set target)
- As a result of UNHCR’s advocacy efforts, 4,000 civil and civil status documents started being processed for IDPs in the North West and South West regions, where access to civil documentation remains both a challenge and a politicised issue. UNHCR ensured access to several rights and remedies for refugees, working with authorities to issue 588 travel authorizations.
- UNHCR strengthened its leadership of the Protection and Shelter Clusters with dedicated cluster coordinators at national and regional level. This resulted in a strengthened protection monitoring mechanism, protection analysis and advocacy capacity. Protection monitoring activities expanded to all 13 divisions in the North-west and South-West regions, allowing a prompt identification of and response to protection incidents.
- 28,089 vulnerable refugees received financial support in line with the national social safety net. 685 vulnerable people of concern received individual assistance to meet urgent needs in terms of health, nutrition and/or psychosocial support.
- Economic empowerment of refugees remained a key priority for UNHCR, which explored new partnerships to meet the needs of refugees. 76 urban refugees in Yaoundé and Douala, received financial credits ranging from $850 to $3,000. Thanks to micro-credits, refugees established micro-enterprises in various industries ranging from food service, laundry, peanut sales, blacksmithing, computer secretariat, aesthetics/nail and hairdressing, gardening, chicken farming, and food trade. Additionally, 39 refugees developed their skills in the Ministry of Youth and Civic Education and the Ministry of the Promotion of Women and the Family training centres: these trainings allowed 20 young refugees to open their start-up enterprises and build their own homes.
- In Gabon, 147 refugees received their residence cards and nine refugees received the Gabonese nationality through naturalization procedures. Six border monitoring missions were conducted in Gabon jointly with the National Commission for Refugees to monitor access to the territory for persons in need of international protection. Capacity building activities were provided to border officials.
Unmet needsAs of 31 December 2020, UNHCR’s operation in Cameroon was only 52% funded. This shortage in funding, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic and security constraints, resulted in:
- Limited access to education and health care for all people of concern.
- Lack of birth certificates, preventing children from accessing education and health services.
- Lack of resources to expand biometric registration for out-of-camp refugees.
- Difficulties in implementing cash assistance for IDPs at heightened risk.
- Lack of funding to support construction and/or rehabilitation of community infrastructure in locations hosting IDPs.
- Inability to provide emergency shelter assistance to ‘self-settled’ IDPs in urban, peri-urban, and safe rural locations, especially for women and other people at heightened risk.
- Lack of assistance for voluntary repatriation.
Use of flexible funding (unearmarked or softly earmarked funding)Flexible funding enabled UNHCR’s Multi-country Office in Cameroon to assist people of concern from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Preventive measures and other emergency needs included soap, hand washing kits, water, sanitation and hygiene services, sensitization campaigns signboards, leaflets and provision of medical equipment/items/drugs.
Working environmentThe current crisis in Cameroon started in October 2016, when teachers and lawyers in anglophone regions spoke out against the marginalization they felt in Cameroon as the minority in a predominantly francophone country. The crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions has displaced 530,000 people internally, with 35,000 crossing into Nigeria. Most of the displaced are women and children. On 10 September 2019, the president of Cameroon called for a national dialogue to address the crisis.
In the Far North Region, some 104,880 Nigerian refugees have fled Boko Haram insurgency and are settled in Minawao refugee camp and host communities, while 262,830 people remain internally displaced. The political unrest in the Central African Republic (CAR) has also pushed some 285,170 Central Africans to seek refuge within the East region of Cameroon. Cameroon is also home to close to 25,520 urban refugees from various countries in the sub-region. They are mostly settled in Douala and Yaoundé. There are also some 8,800 asylum-seekers.
One of the main planning assumptions is that the current political and economic stability will continue in 2020. At the same time, beyond national borders, the current security situation of the eastern states of Nigeria and western parts of CAR are likely to remain the same until 2020. If the current security situation remains, or further improves in the countries of origin, an increase in voluntary returns is expected for 2020.
The level of acceptance of refugees by both the State and the host communities remains high. However, the pressure on resources and services, the perception of assistance as favouring refugees, a rise in insecurity and crime coupled with strong allegations that refugees are responsible have undermined peaceful coexistence.
Joint committees and peace forums have been set up to enhance peaceful relations between the refugee and host communities. The provision of training on international protection, rights and duties of refugees will continue to be provided to administrative, judicial and military authorities to maintain a favourable protection environment. Health services, education, water provision, vital statistics, and hygiene and sanitation will all be strengthened for both communities to reduce the pressure created by an influx of refugees.
UNHCR is lobbying and advocating with Ministry of Planning and Land Development, donors and with development actors to financially empower people of concern and to ensure they are included in relevant programmes. This strategy follows a long research phase, which included a multi-community survey.
Key prioritiesSince 2016, Cameroon has embarked on a process of registration and refugee determination activities to establish fair and effective national asylum procedures. This process started for refugees living in urban areas in Yaoundé and will extend to rural areas by 2023. UNHCR continues to issue identification cards to refugees, despite challenges ensuring the security forces recognize the documents.
Achieving refugees’ economic inclusion and improving their livelihood opportunities, while reducing their dependency on humanitarian aid, requires collaboration between a wide range of stakeholders, so UNHCR is partnering with the Government and donors through to development actors and other UN agencies.
The March 2017 tripartite agreement between the Governments of Cameroon and Nigeria and UNHCR for the voluntary repatriation of Nigerian refugees living in Cameroon facilitated the voluntary return of 133 Nigerian refugees in August 2019. In June 2019, a similar agreement was signed between the Governments of Cameroon and CAR and UNHCR for the voluntary repatriation of Central African refugees living in Cameroon. More than 4,000 people are expected to return to CAR by the end of 2019, with thousands more refugees in Cameroon potentially returning to their places of origin in 2020, security permitting.
A new framework convention with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health will be finalized in 2020, extending the Government’s health remit to other areas where refugees are present, such as the Far North and the cities of Douala and Yaoundé. In principle, refugees will also be covered by a universal health coverage scheme planned by the Ministry of Health.
UNHCR is involved in civil documentation to prevent statelessness and ensure the enjoyment of basic social rights, including education. However, civil registration centres lack the resources necessary to meet demand for birth certificates from both refugees and the host population. In 2020, UNHCR will: continue raising refugees’ awareness of birth registration in health centres; assist refugees in acquiring their children’s birth certificates and paying their fees; support mobile court hearings; support the distribution and acquisition of civil status registers; Organize six workshops on civil documentation for local authorities and advocate the launch of civil status centres near refugee locations.
A data sharing protocol was signed in March 2019 with the Cameroonian authorities, granting identity cards to refugees. To ensure each refugee receives the document, UNHCR will: procure the necessary equipment for the document production and fund its maintenance and repair; encourage those at refugee settlements to renew refugee ID cards and family composition certificates; and organize workshops to build Government staff’s capacity to issue biometric cards to refugees.
Livelihoods and income-generating activities will include: facilitating the supply of improved seeds around at least three agricultural value chains and agricultural tools to 20,000 households; developing hydro-agricultural schemes for off-season crops to create agricultural entrepreneurship pools; developing micro and small enterprises with easier access to financing; promoting Voluntary Savings and Loan Associations; training young people in small trades and supporting their social and professional integration. In 2020 and 2021, UNHCR will strive to multiply innovative partnerships with banks that lend themselves to rural finance.
UNHCR will focus on increasing cash-based interventions from 14% in 2019 to 20% in 2020. This will diversify sectors and increase the number of beneficiaries, including those of a social network project being tested.