A Spectacular Strategy for Change
Improving well-being through awareness
Though often associated only with Nigeria, the fight against terrorist organisation Boko Haram has shattered lives in neighbouring countries as well. Cameroon, wedged between west and central Africa in the Lake Chad Basin, is one of them.
Already the poorest province in Cameroon, the Far North Region has suffered greatly because of the conflict. Today, about 241,000 Cameroonians remain displaced in the region, which also hosts some 95,000 Nigerian refugees.
International Medical Corps has provided humanitarian assistance in Cameroon since 2008, initially responding to a refugee crisis along Cameroon’s eastern border with the Central African Republic (CAR). Now, International Medical Corps is present in Adamawa as well as the East and Far North regions.
Funded by European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), International Medical Corps provides internally displaces persons (IDPs), Nigerian refugees and host populations living in the Far North Region with health, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and counselling services, nutrition services and child-protection services, as well as water, hygiene and sanitation (WASH) assistance.
A humanitarian crisis often brings multitudes of complex consequences, and needs are often greater than what meets the eye. For example, the risk and prevalence of GBV and similar problems increase during a conflict and the forced displacement that often accompanies it.
To prevent this, International Medical Corps organises comprehensive dialogue spaces for men in Cameroon’s Far North Region, raising awareness about the dangers of gender-based violence. At the dialogue spaces, community members also discuss reproductive health, child protection and good nutrition practices. To maximise the number of participants, the sessions are held at strategically identified places such as schools, mosques, churches, water-gathering points and similar places where people congregate.
When International Medical Corps’ team asked two of the participants what they thought of the dialogue spaces, the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.
Modo, from Momboï-Masfaï, told the team that the dialogue-spaces, locally referred to as “husband-schools,” opened his eyes to the importance of child-education:
“After I was selected as a ‘model husband’ in my village, I learned of the importance of educating a child, and I did not hesitate in implementing it in my family. In fact, it became a priority.”
Vakaïkiè, from Zamai, also shared a heartfelt story about the dialogue spaces:
“The ‘husband school’ helped me reconcile with my wife, whom I had long ago chased away. Now I am a model in my family as well as my community.”
In a region that continues to battle the problems caused by conflict, GBV-prevention and community-strengthening assistance such as the dialogue spaces becomes a stabiliser in an otherwise chaotic reality. An often-forgotten aspect of humanitarian aid can provide a cornerstone for thriving communities.