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Plagued by war


The International Rescue Committee provides vital support to refugees and displaced people in northern Cameroon, which has been hard hit by growing violence in neighbouring Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Country facts
  • Population: 22.25 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 251,000
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 153 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Cameroon: 2016

Crisis briefing

Cameroon, a country vulnerable to natural disaster and a chronic food crisis has been further destabilised by the recent influx of people displaced by Boko Haram militants in Nigeria and civil war in Central African Republic. The IRC has responded with aid and support to Cameroon’s hard-hit Far North region.

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What caused the current crisis in Cameroon?

Cameroon borders two countries plagued by insurgency and civil war: Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

Since 2014, one of Africa's deadliest militant groups, Boko Haram, has forced more than 65,000 Nigerians to flee to Cameroon, which has been drawn into the regional conflict. The group has attacked scores of towns and villages in the Far North: many have died from car bombings and indiscriminate killings, and 251,000 people have been displaced from their homes. In 2015, Boko Haram pledged allegiance to ISIS, which affirmed the group’s aim to establish a West African caliphate.

Meanwhile, the vicious civil war in neighboring Central African Republic has forced more than 200,000 people to flee to Cameroon. CAR’s transitional government is weak, allowing a variety of militant groups to prosper. 

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Cameroon?

Humanitarian needs are enormous and growing: 1.4 million people are estimated to be food insecure in the Far North and 1.6 million are estimated to be in humanitarian need.

A quarter of a million people have fled their homes, many with children in tow and with little more than the clothes on their backs. Local communities have opened their doors to the displaced, but they often have little to share.

Protection is a concern for civilians caught in the middle of this brutal war. Many women and girls face abduction and sexual slavery at the hands of Boko Haram, while others are at risk of exploitation. Men and boys face forced recruitment or execution. Many children have lost parents or have been separated from their families.

When Boko Haram attacked his village, 38-year-old Youssouf Oumar, who is blind, fled to a nearby village where the IRC provided clean water and cash assistance. Photo: Tyler Jump/IRC

How does the IRC help in Cameroon?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We began working in Cameroon in early 2016, focussing our efforts in the Far North region by:

  • Providing emergency cash to the most vulnerable families
  • Working with the community to build and maintain safe water supply systems and sanitation facilities 
  • Distributing emergency hygiene supplies to women and girls, and educating people on good hygiene practice to prevent disease
  • Providing counselling services and support to survivors of sexual violence

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