In 2016, the Far North region of Cameroon continued to endure violent cross-border attacks perpetrated by Boko Haram, which resulted in the breakdown of considerable parts of local trade and economic activities and in the forced internal displacement of some 192,000 inhabitants within the region. Violence across the border in Nigeria has equally been felt with the continued steady arrival of Nigerian refugees to Cameroon, with some more recently claiming to have fled Boko Haram captivity. The conflict between security forces and Boko Haram in north-east Nigeria has forced around 75,000 Nigerians to seek safety in Cameroon, following attacks on their villages in Nigeria’s Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states. During the first months of 2016, the majority of arrivals at Minawao camp included Nigerians that had previously sought safety and asylum across the border in Cameroon but, due to the increasing number of cross-border incursions and military push-back by Cameroonian military forces, were now obliged to move further inland, towards Minawao camp, in search of protection, security and assistance. This trend has changed since June with the majority of new arrivals at the camp fleeing straight from Nigeria.
As a result, in 2016, some 8,845 refugees were newly registered, including new arrivals and new born, until mid-September. In total, 58,104 Nigerians have been registered by UNHCR at Minawao camp by mid-September 2016. The camp continuous to operate beyond maximum capacity and the congestion makes it challenging to prevent the outbreaks of diseases and to provide services and assistance in line with international humanitarian standards.
In addition to the refugees registered at Minawao camp, at least 14,871 unregistered refugees are living in villages along the border with Nigeria, mainly in the departments of Logone-et-Chari (11,883) and Mayo-Tsanaga (2,727) according to the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in the Number 4 of August 2016.
Within the context of this Regional Refugee Response Plan and taking into account the Government’s clearly stated encampment policy for Nigerian refugees in the Far North region due to security concerns, refugees at Minawao camp are the main population targeted by the response described under this chapter. With the exception of the protection sector, the humanitarian needs of unregistered refugees who settled in villages in border areas alongside host communities and IDPs are considered within the wider humanitarian response each sector has developed for these populations and which is detailed in the respective chapters of the 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan for Cameroon.
It is clear that the crisis has seriously impacted the most vulnerable civilians beyond Minawao camp, including out of camp refugees, IDPs and host communities across the region, particularly women and children at risk, older people and people with disabilities or serious medical conditions. We also note that violence against women and children, including SGBV, is widespread, that many people have suffered the trauma of violent experiences and that there is a significant rise in the number of child and female-headed households.
Due to the unpredictable and volatile security context in the Far North region of Cameroon, and the heavy presence of Cameroon’s national security personnel, humanitarian access outside of Minawao camp to provide protection and assistance in some areas remained challenging. In addition, advocacy with Cameroonian authorities remains paramount to ensure access to asylum for Nigerians seeking safety. Security forces remain vigilant on who is crossing the border, however a strategy to reinforce protection and border monitoring in the three border departments (Mayo-Sava, Mayo-Tsanaga and Logone-et-Chari) has been put in place. Another strategy consists of strengthening the local monitoring and referral mechanisms with the Joint Committees (local authorities and UNHCR) that have been established in each department. The aim of these committees is to reinforce the protection of out of camp refugees, track population movements, pre-register new arrivals, and act as an early warning system in order to improve protection space and access to asylum. Proposals have also been made, in several instances, for the establishment of additional transit centers closer to entry points, in particular in the locality of Mora, where refugees could be screened, and, as required, transferred to Minawao camp, as part of a joint operation conducted by the Cameroonian authorities and UNHCR.
In terms of major achievements, the Cameroon operation can report the following:
The immediate registration of new arrivals at Gourenguel transit center next to Minawao camp and the issuance of documents are in place since April 2016. Procedures regarding the registration of new born children have been revised to make the process more efficient. As a result, all children in Minawao camp have been registered and issued documentation under regular birth registration procedure, thus reducing the risk of statelessness;
Minawao camp has two pre-primary schools, six primary schools and one secondary school all of which are fully operational. In addition, the camp provides Early Childhood Development (ECD) activities including the construction of 15 Temporary Learning and Protection Spaces (TLPS);
Psychosocial support was provided to 7,369 children at risk including unaccompanied and separated children. These kids also benefitted from legal support and family tracing and reunification.
The measles epidemic that struck the Far North region in 2014 ended in April 2016, also thanks to the training of 193 community workers on how to improve community-based vaccination activities.
More than 1,000 family shelters were constructed in Minawao camp, 435 family tents were installed, and 8 community shelters were built. In addition, 6,341 shelter material kits were distributed to 5,828 household to build their own transitional (semi-durable) shelters and 698 community shelter tool kits were distributed. All newly arrived families received Non-Food Items (NFIs) including mats, blankets, jerry can, and kitchen set.
The main challenges to the operation include:
- Maintaining the civilian and humanitarian character of asylum in the current security context will remain challenging in 2017.
- Due to continued insecurity in the Far North there continues to be limited access to Nigerian refugees outside of Minawao camp.
- Ensure that all refugees have the possibility to access asylum and undergo screening and status determination procedures.
- Increasing violence in the Far North has led to the perception that this is related to the continued arrival and presence of refugees. Advocacy efforts with local authorities and communities will remain central to the continued response in order to ensure peaceful co-existence between host communities and refugees.
- Water and sanitation assistance is still critical, as natural conditions in the Far North do not favor high levels of ground water, which makes water supply difficult.
- Limited funding continues to overshadow the response and affect the delivery of a higher quality of assistance.