Today, Cameroon has surpassed 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, signalling a need for urgent support in a country already tackling multiple humanitarian emergencies, including escalating violence and displacement. The International Rescue Committee is calling for increased support to help mitigate the spread of the disease especially amongst the refugee and displaced population.

Cameroon is one of the world’s most forgotten crises, facing three distinct emergencies, from armed violence in the North-West and South-West to an influx of refugees from Nigeria and Central Africa Republic (CAR). More than 700,000 people in some places have been forced to flee their homes and are living in cramped, crowded informal camps or multiple families to a single home, meaning this disease will spread rapidly throughout the close knit population. The IRC is scaling up its work to provide clean water and proper hygiene and sanitation facilities, services to women and girls and economic support to help mitigate loss of income. 

Hannah Gibbin, Cameroon Country Director at the IRC, said, 

“This milestone is an extremely concerning turning point for a country already facing multiple humanitarian emergencies. With almost four million people in need of humanitarian aid and the highest COVID-19 caseload across the Sahel and East Africa, this pandemic poses increased danger to people already suffering terrible violence. And with 2.5 million people already in need of urgent medical care without the outbreak, the health system is clearly ill prepared to handle a rapid escalation in cases despite the best efforts of the Government and its partners.

“Refugees and people displaced from their homes do not have the luxury of social distancing and practicing proper hygiene and sanitation. Most are living in crowded conditions, unable to maintain physical distance ensuring the disease will continue to spread rapidly through the population. Local communities are being put under strain to support displaced populations and already limited resources are being pushed to their limit. Women and girls are at increased risk of experiencing violence and loss of livelihoods. The IRC is continuing our work to provide protection and psychological support to survivors of violence and ensure women are able to continue to feed themselves and their families.

“We need a rapid scale up of funding to help us mitigate the spread of this disease. With the right resources, we can improve access to water and sanitation services, inform the community how best to protect themselves and reinforce proper infection prevention and control. People living in conflict are in need of our support, and we must do everything we can to ensure this disease does not compound their suffering.”

The IRC has launched a US $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide.

The IRC launched an emergency response in Cameroon’s Far North in April 2016 and subsequently in the South-West of the country in mid 2018. The IRC is responding to the basic needs and safety requirements of those affected by crises, through food security, economic empowerment, water & sanitation and protection activities, including specific services for women and girls.