Cameroon | International Rescue Committee (IRC)

What caused the current crisis in Cameroon?

Since 2014, around 358,000 refugees fleeing Boko Haram in Nigeria and the civil war in the Central African Republic have found refuge in Cameroon. In total, the violence has left an estimated 4.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in eight of Cameroon’s 10 regions, including the Far North, East, North West and South West regions. .

Since 2016, the North West and South West regions of the country have experienced high levels of insecurity and armed violence caused by epidemics between separatist militias in the region and the country’s defense and security forces. As a result, more than 530,806 people – about two-thirds of them women – have been forced to flee their homes, leaving 1.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Escalating tensions have led to a socio-economic crisis as people continue to seek safety and rebuild their lives.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Cameroon?

In Cameroon, people affected by the crisis urgently need food, shelter, protection, water and health care. Local communities have opened their doors to displaced people, but they often have little to share.

Almost 3 million people are in need of food assistance. Before the crisis, 70 percent of the population of the Northwest depended on agriculture. Insecurity is now pushing farmers to abandon their farmland, which has led to a drop in production and an increase in the price of basic foodstuffs.

The supply of drinking water in quantity and quality remains precarious. More than 1.8 million people need access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation. Water points in places where refugees and displaced people reside are often broken and latrines are scarce. Overcrowded conditions without clean water or a proper waste management system expose people to diseases such as cholera and malaria.

About 1.5 million people are in need of health assistance in the regions affected by the crisis. Health centers are unprepared and lack the qualified staff and medical supplies and equipment needed to treat the most vulnerable. In the South West region, around 24% of health facilities have closed due to the crisis.

Protection needs persist as civilians, especially women and girls, face numerous human rights violations, including killings, kidnappings and arbitrary arrests. The lack of identification documents greatly increases the protection problems faced by internally displaced persons.

Women remain the most vulnerable to exploitation and disease. Many do not have menstrual hygiene supplies because they are unable to pay for them, find them, or are too afraid to travel to obtain them. There is also a shortage of health services, including midwives and gynecologists, available for pregnant women.

About 80 percent of girls and boys in preschool, elementary and secondary schools in the North West and South West regions do not have access to continuing education due to the crisis. In 2015, 120 schools closed due to violence and insecurity, forcing more than 33,000 students to drop out or attend school in another community.

How is IRC helping in Cameroon?

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

We are focusing our efforts in the Far North and South West regions by:

  • provide safe drinking water and improve sanitation facilities such as water pumps, latrines and showers, and waste disposal pits in communities hosting large numbers of displaced people;
  • distribution of basic supplies such as water cans, cooking utensils and blankets to displaced families;
  • distribute dignity kits with items such as sanitary napkins, bath soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes, sanitary napkins and underwear to reduce violence against women and girls
  • manage safe spaces for women and girls where they can seek advice, participate in recreational activities and receive other services;
  • help individuals obtain identification documents and refer them to other legal services;
  • establish vital referral pathways for survivors of sexual assault to ensure they receive safe and appropriate clinical care;
  • engage community members to work on protection risk reduction through community programs and respond to human rights violations;
  • providing cash assistance through mobile modalities or vouchers for the most vulnerable to help them meet their basic needs;
  • providing business grants and vocational training opportunities for young people, women and girls in crisis-affected communities.

What still needs to be done?

IRC’s work in Cameroon is more critical than ever as violence continues to force people to leave their homes. We are committed to putting the needs of those most affected by the crisis, especially women and girls, at the forefront of our efforts and to achieving measurable improvements in security and economic well-being. It is clear that more aid is needed to meet the growing humanitarian needs.


There is an urgent need to improve the way we respond to cholera epidemics. We are looking for ways to help crisis-affected communities prevent and control infections through awareness sessions, improve access to clean water, build latrines and promote good hygiene.

Economic well-being

Due to insecurity and displacement, people affected by the crisis have lost their livelihoods and often resort to negative coping strategies in order to survive, such as selling their few personal items or carrying out crimes. hazardous or degrading and exploitative work. This further weakens their resilience and makes them more vulnerable.

  • In the Far North region, we will intensify resilience programs by offering subsidies to businesses and vocational training opportunities to support the economic well-being of young people.
  • We will promote the empowerment of women through village savings and loan associations.
  • IRC will maintain and diversify the modalities of its cash programs to help vulnerable households meet their basic needs with dignity.


With the crisis in the Far North, South West and North West regions, the risks of protection and gender-based violence (GBV) have increased, with women and girls also now at greater risk. at risk of rape and sexual and physical abuse. IRC will work on:

  • establish a comprehensive protection monitoring and alert system at community level to ensure that rights violations are identified and addressed in a timely manner;
  • extend psychosocial support sessions for adolescent girls in secure spaces managed by IRC;
  • introduce activities specifically targeting men and boys for behavior change;
  • strengthen the capacity of key local protection partners in conflict resolution to promote security and social cohesion at the community level;
  • expand direct services to include legal aid and access to justice for survivors of violence.


Cameroon’s Far North has one of the lowest net enrollment rates, around 24 percent, poor infrastructure, insecurity, lack of qualified teachers and teaching materials, and inability to paying school fees are some of the obstacles families face. IRC will support children with reading, writing, numeracy and socio-emotional skills, as well as livelihood skills for young people. We will also ensure that school-aged girls and boys can enroll in and participate in safe, functional and appropriate education programs.

Read IRC’s strategic action plan in Cameroon.