It has been a while, but we’re sure you'll understand. Unfortunately since our last post in 2018, things have not yet taken a turn for the better. Below we've put together a summary of the news from a recent newsletter put out by BERUDA's Sponsor an Orphan Project.
Life remains very challenging for all citizens of the English speaking North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. The conflict that broke out in November 2016 leading to the rupture and later on to complete close down of the educational sector in the semi-urban and rural areas of Cameroon has steadily degenerated our living conditions.
As most of you might already know, Belo and later on other towns such as Njinikom and Fundong have been the hotspots of the conflict between the government and non-state armed forces. The irrational gun exchanges, burning of houses and property, human casualties as collateral damage and intentional killings both by the non-state (separatists) and government armed forces displaced 95% of the populations. Belo, home to BERUDA HQ, has now been deserted for almost a year and presently looks like farmland. Before the exodus, staff would have to travel among rotting corpses and were subjected to the terrifying gunshots that continued day and night.
There have been developments that have made life easier for the staff to manage. Shortly before BERUDA left Belo to set up the office in nearby Bamenda City, BERUDA gained a contract with UNICEF to act as Third Party Monitors to the activities they are implementing in the North West Region in their emergency response efforts. UNICEF is implementing projects through other partners like PLAN International Cameroon, SHUMAS, Red Cross and more. UNICEF monitors the activities of all these partners for compliance, efficiency and to provide coaching where needed. Due to the volatile situation, UNICEF staff are not able to conduct the monitoring and BERUDA as one of the most deeply rooted and influential grassroots organizations in the North West has taken over the work on the ground. Staff travel into the field, collect sampling data and electronically submit the data via an app on mobile phones called “KOBO collect,” which can be extracted by the Data Manager, analysed and then reported to UNICEF. The contract is due to end shortly, but there are prospects that it shall be renewed for 3 more months.
Since the conflict began most of our Orphans from BERUDA’s Sponsor an Orphan Project stopped attending school and over two long years occasionally attempted to resume studies but their efforts were futile. The separatists used education as the main tool in the fight against the government of Cameroon and declared zero operation of schools in the Regions. So they kept brutally attacking and occasionally knifed students who attempted to go school, kidnapping teachers and burning schools. In early 2018, the educational system completely collapsed in 5 out of 7 Divisions of the North West region and in all of the South West.
The good news is that we have successfully located all the orphans in the program. We know their whereabouts and are able to follow up on their progress. We maintained our activities locating and visiting orphans in Bamenda, and occasionally in Belo incurring much trekking due to road blocks, monthly hospital visits and refill of ARVs for the HIV+ children and following up on emergency health issues. We took care of household needs and food for some of those children who moved to Bamenda. We intend to keep on assisting the orphans in the best way we can in these trying times of the conflict. It is important to know that after this conflict, the orphans will have double the needs like before; some may need serious psychological support, making of civil documents lost during the time of displacement, extra support in education to catch up on the lost time, etc.
Since December 2018, BERUDA had planned a general distribution of food and non-food Items (in addition to the individual supplies given out) but constant road blocks in the area by the separatist fighters and frequent gun fighting presented a very insecure and risky environment for that activity. The supplies were stored until February 2019 when we journeyed to Belo to supply all the families still living within Boyo Division. Supplies included cooking oil, salt, rice, groundnuts, soy beans, maggi, onions, and other non-food items such as laundry soaps, sanitary pads for teenage girls, body lotions and more.
And so life carries on, with hope for a brighter future in coming days. Thank you immensely for your steadfast support to BERUDA and their service to humanity.
Until next time, take care.