Over 700,000 children have been impacted by school closures due to often brutal violence in Cameroon, according to an analysis released by the UN humanitarian arm, OCHA, on Thursday.
Two out of three schools are closed in the North-West and South-West regions of the country. On 24 November, four children and one teacher were killed in an attack in Ekondo Titi, in the South-West.
A recent lockdown imposed by a non-State armed group, from 15 September to 2 October, limited access to basic services including health and education.
During the period, OCHA reported a series of attacks in the North-West.
Eight students were kidnapped, and a girl’s fingers were chopped off after she tried to attend school. Five public school principals were also kidnapped, including one who was then killed.
All schools and community learning spaces were closed, except for some schools in a few urban areas which operated at less than 60 per cent capacity.
The lockdown and insecurity also forced UN agencies and aid organisations to temporarily suspend the delivery of aid. During that time, about 200,000 people did not receive food.
Nine out of ten regions of the country continue to be impacted by one of three humanitarian crises: the crisis in the North-West and South-West, conflict in the Far North, and a refugee crisis, with people fleeing the Central African Republic.
Because of these combined crises, over one million children need urgent education support.
To answer some of these needs, Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the UN global fund for education in emergencies and crises, is working closely with UN agencies, the Norwegian Refugee Council and other civil society partners.
ECW is contributing $25 million over three years and calling for other donors to fill the gap, which is estimated at $50 million.
putting a schoolbag on your back shouldn’t make you a target
When fully funded, the programme will provide approximately 250,000 children and adolescents with access to safe and protective learning environments in the most-affected areas.
Just this week, the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, and the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, had a joint visit to the country.
In a statement, Ms. Sherif said the situation “is among the most complex humanitarian crises in the world today.”
“Children and youth are having to flee their homes and schools, are threatened with violence and kidnapping, and being forced into early childhood marriage and recruited into armed groups,” Ms. Sherif recalled.
Jan Egeland argued that “putting a schoolbag on your back shouldn’t make you a target”, but unfortunately children in Cameroon “risk their lives every day just showing up for school.”
“Cameroon’s education mega-emergency needs international attention, not deadly silence by the outside world,” Mr. Egeland declared.