The impacts of humanitarian response from INTERSOS on Internally Displaced Persons in Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon
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1.1 Background to the Study
The global crisis of internal displacement presents an enormous challenge to the international assistance community (Matthew, 2011). Although the precise number is unknown, experts estimate the number of people displaced within international borders to be around 30 million, of whom women and children comprise about 80 percent (Cohen et al., 1998). The rights of Internally Displaced Persons, including access to basic services of food, water, shelter, and health care are often ignored (Nau, 2011). Moreover, displaced persons have no voice; their circumstances compel them to accept the little assistance offered while being denied the opportunity to actively participate in program design, monitoring, or assessments on activities that directly affect their lives and that of their children.
The issue of insurgency has rendered many people homeless in many parts of the world. Insurgency activities are ravaging the affected regions and many people have been forced to abandon their homes and environments. The phenomenon of IDP became a glaring international issue after World War II, due to the gross violation of the human rights of the displaced persons and due to the increasing intrastate wars around the world (Olanrewaju et al., 2018. P. 14). The number of people in need of humanitarian response is growing and armed conflict continues to be a driver of humanitarian need. The absence of political solutions has led to protracted crises in many countries and resulted in widespread destruction, the dislocation of persons internally and to neighboring countries, and a breakdown of law and order. Natural hazards also are an increasing risk. Climate change is modifying weather patterns, making hazards more frequent, less predictable and longer lasting. This magnifies the risk of disasters everywhere, but especially in those parts of the world where there are already high levels of vulnerability due to rapid population growth, food and energy price volatility, poverty, and environmental degradation, among a range of factors (World Food Program, 1995)
The combined effect is wide-reaching and recurrent humanitarian crises around the globe. These globally increasing risks have brought a huge problem of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have not crossed a border to find safety (Maqbool, 2019). They often move to areas where it is difficult to deliver humanitarian response and as a result, these persons are among the most vulnerable in the world. The background of this study will be on the historical, contextual introductory approach and lastly the mixed introductory approach to Humanitarian responses and internally displaced persons with emphasis on the case of INTERSOS.
Historically, some authors have suggested various schemes for dividing the history of humanitarian action. Barnett and Farré describe ages of humanitarianism, starting with the period of imperial humanitarianism, from the early nineteenth century through World War II, continuing with a period of “liberal humanitarianism” from the end of the Cold War to the present (Barnett & Farré 2011). Other authors identify the World Wars as distinct turning points in the history of the humanitarian movement. Davey, Borton, and Foley divide modern humanitarian history into four main periods: from the mid-nineteenth century until the end of the First World War in 1918; the “Wilsonian” period of the interwar years and the Second World War; the Cold War period; and the post–Cold War period (Davey et al., 2013).
Globally, armed conflict has occurred throughout human history, and writings from many ancient societies indicate that persons have long been thinking about how to minimize their deleterious effects. However, organized efforts to support populations affected by these events are relatively recent phenomena (Rysaback-Smith, 2015).
The eighteenth century saw one of the first international, government-sponsored, relief efforts, in response to an earthquake that destroyed the Portuguese capital of Lisbon in 1755 (Walker & Maxwell, 2014). Both Spain and England sent humanitarian aid. This intervention introduced the concept of humanitarian action as an intrinsic property of “good nationhood,” an idea that would gain importance in the coming century (Walker & Maxwell, 2014).
By the Nineteenth Century, humanitarian movement, as we know it today, took root within this period. As Walker and Maxwell state, “something changed around the middle of the nineteenth century which galvanized humanitarian action, by states and private individuals, from a handful of disconnected instances to a more organized series of thought through policies and activities with global connections” (Walker & Maxwell, 2014). One driving factor behind this change was the interconnectedness that railways and the telegraph provided, facilitating trade, travel, and communication. Now, philanthropists and charitable organizations could support those in need anywhere in the world. Globalization, enhanced by trade and the growth of empires, fostered the development of the international humanitarian movement.
Displacement of persons is universal. As several scholars and experts have remarked, it is not a recent phenomenon (Cohen, 2001), but what has provoked a development in the discourse and maximum international concern over the last decades is the complexity of displacement, (Muguruza, 2018), the escalating figures and the axiomatic numerous reasons for displacement (Global Humanitarian Assistance, 2017). Among the several reasons instigating displacement, be it generalized conflict, communal violence, internal strife, systematic violations of human rights and natural disasters among others, an undisputable fact exist that, violent conflict and communal violence predominately displaced persons every year (Brookings- LSE, 2014) which has degenerated into a protracted and multifaceted situation or crisis (Lischer, 2009).
Globally, this has contributed immensely in mushrooming the figures of displaced persons of which all the continents in the world have experienced the ardent effect of the displacement phenomenon. Even though the devastating effect of displacement may not be experienced in the same way, Maqbool (2019) stipulates that, conflict induced displacement may have regional implications too. To further extrapolate, if there is a conflict in one country, the effects could be experienced in other countries and displacement could flare up into other neighboring countries too. While States, international governmental and non-governmental organizations, scholars and policy makers in the post-cold war era, have all been engaged to ascertain a solution for displaced persons globally (Deng,1995), displacement situation is getting appalling and abysmal day in and day out.
In 2017, Cameroon experienced a displacement situation in the Anglophone regions of which almost one million people were displaced according reports (World Vision, 2019). Cameroon has never experienced displacement in such a protracted manner hence it became one of the worst humanitarian crisis the country has ever faced (Yigzaw & Abitew, 2019). A number of humanitarian agencies such as INTERSOS together with the government and local agencies are contributing in responding to the situation which has saved a lot life. This study therefore seeks to assess the impact of humanitarian responses from INTERSORS to internally displaced persons of Anglophone regions of Cameroon more specifically Meme Division.
According to Cernea (2000) food insecurity, an aftermath of homelessness, landlessness and lack of access to of common resources, is one of the fundamental problems facing displaced persons and contributing to their impoverishment. In the same vein, Sinclair (1998) identified malnutrition as a particularly visible problem among displaced persons, mostly girls and women. One of the direct social consequences of displacement which have often been analysed in the literature is deteriorating health conditions (Ramaiah, 1995), and such health risks are often attributed to lack of access to potable water and sanitation, a direct fallout of the progressive deterioration in economic conditions, leading to psychological trauma, mental illness and alienation. In particular, children, women and the elderly, whose health situation is worse than that of men even under normal circumstances (Terminski, 2012), have been listed among the categories of people highly vulnerable to health risks associated with development-induced displacement.
Conceptually, internal displacement is the forced migration of persons from their homeland due to some unpleasant conditions that the affected or their government could not resolve immediately. Internal displacement is associated with personal or group losses, abuses, deprivation and dependency UNHCR (2020). The affected persons are desirous of immediate protection and assistance away from their original homes (Akume 2015). Internally Displaced persons stay within their own home country and remain under the protection of its government. Different factors lead to internal displacement, these include, conflicts, natural disasters, violation of human rights and sometimes the government. The UNHR defines internally displaced persons according to the guiding principles on internal displacement as “persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes and place of habitual residence ,in order to avoid armed conflicts, violation of human rights ,national disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border (UNHRC) .The UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report estimates the total number of displaced persons to be around 79.5 million people as at the end of 2019 with most of these persons displaced within their home countries. Displacement patterns worldwide most often are a result of communal violence and internal armed conflicts. While some of the conflicts are said to be caused by religious or ethnic differences, many have recognized the benefits of a political, social and economic nature as general drivers of violence in countries with endemic poverty, low levels of education and a large and alienated youth population (UNHCR, 2020).
According to Njapdem and Mbahpang (2020) human movements or displacements are natural phenomena which contribute to human and economic Development. However, forced displacement, that is, an involuntary or forced movement, evacuation or relocation of persons, which does not depend on the people, is now a major problem in the world both internally and externally. As opposed to refugees who are persons displaced from one country to the other and have crossed internationally recognized state borders, internally displaced persons (IDPs) are defined by the 1998 UN Guiding Principles and the 2009 Kampala Convention as; persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border (Kampala Convention, 2009, Art 1).
Despite the fact that the State has the full responsibility in taking measures to protect and assist Internally Displaced Persons within its territory, the Kampala Convention also stipulates that the states have the obligation to cooperate with each other and to respect the mandates of the African Union, the United Nations Organisation and the role of international humanitarian organizations, in a bid to provide assistance to the Internally Displaced Persons (Kampala Convention, Art 5(1,2,3). We see from the above-mentioned articles of the Kampala Convention that there is a clear obligation for the state to facilitate and ease the inter-relation between its organs and non-state stakeholders in providing protection and assistance to Internally Displaced Persons. Cameroon, is one of the countries that is currently facing mass displacement of persons due to the insurgency in the Anglophone regions, which is our main focus in this academic work.
Most international practices and policies see IDPs in Camp settings, thereby making it much easier to be able to monitor and provide the required assistance to the IDPs. It is however not the case in Cameroon as most IDPs are rather supported by their families, friends and social networks, thus keeping them beyond the reach of formal procedures when it comes to getting assistance or support especially from the government. This can be seen as an explanation as to why there are currently no camps in Cameroon. There are approximately 200,000 IDPs in the littoral region with just 20,000 being registered as IDPs, making it difficult for the government to meet up with its humanitarian assistance towards the displaced. (Journal du Cameroun 2020)
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Over the past years, violent clashes in Cameroon between the military and armed separatists have driven thousands of Cameroonians into internally displaced situations. The displaced, most of whom are women and children, face a grave humanitarian situation. Having fled with very little, their presence in impoverished host communities is straining food resources and already limited health, education and hygiene facilities in these areas. Many of the IDPs in the Southwest region in particular are living in overcrowded conditions, without dignified shelter, and without basic hygiene conditions. 1,756 protection incidents were identified through protection monitoring activities initiated in mid-November 2018, in collaboration with INTERSOS, in the Fako, Lebialem, Manyu and Meme Divisions of the Southwest Region (INTERSOS, 2020). The persistent violence witnessed in these regions, Southwest and in Meme Division in particular, has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The rule of law has broken down, resulting in all sorts of human rights abuses, casualties, external and internal displacement of persons, the loss of means of livelihood, loss of education for thousands of students and pupils, and a lack of medical supplies and facilities as well as other basic amenities needed for sustenance. State and non-state actors have sought to address this crisis that escalated into a full-blown humanitarian crisis after 2016 through both security and humanitarian responses.
This study will seek to assess so far, the humanitarian responses of INTERSOS to IDPs in Kumab, Meme Division Southwest Region of Cameroon. It assesses so far, the effectiveness and sustainability of these responses in securing the future of the communities impacted by the ongoing Anglophone crisis.
1.3 Research Questions
1.3.1 Main Research Question
The general research question to guide the study was; What are the impacts of humanitarian response from INTERSOS on Internally Displaced Persons in Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon?
3.1.2 Specific Research Questions
1) How does the provision of basic needs (Food, Water and Shelter) by INTERSOS affects the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba, Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon?
2) To what extents does providing medical assistance by INTERSOS influence the health of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba, Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon?
3) How does the provision of counselling by INTERSOS influence the psychological wellbeing of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba, Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon?
1.4 Research Objectives
1.4.1 Main Research Objective
The general research objective to assess the impacts of humanitarian response from INTERSOS on Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba, Meme Division Southwest Region Cameroon?
1.4.2 Specific Research objectives
1) To identify how the provision of basic needs (Food, Water and Shelter) by INTERSOS affect the welfare of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba.
2) To examine the effect of the provision of medical assistance by INTERSOS on the health of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba.
3) To assess the impacts of providing counselling by INTERSOS on the psychological wellbeing of Internally Displaced Persons in Kumba
FURTHER READING: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROJECT TOPICS WITH MATERIALS