Schools and children face the brunt of floods in North Cameroon
by Vikas Verma, with field reports from Yannig Dussart - UNICEF Education
Back to school has acquired a new meaning for children and families reeling under the floods in the Far North and North regions of Cameroon. Instead of happy, shouting kids streaming into schools at the start of a new session, 10 schools are temporarily hosting the affected families and children while 75 schools have been damaged or severely flooded in both the regions.
Not just schools, flooding of several communities of 20 subdivisions (8 in the Far North and 12 in the North) located at the downstream dams caused the destruction of bridges, homes, crops, wells and latrines. It is estimated that 47,591 people (7,254 families) have been directly affected in the North, while 6,889 (650 families) in the Far North Region. The situation continues to evolve with no sight of letting up in the intensity of rains. Every day the news pours in about additional sites getting inundated.
The UNICEF team saw the devastation first hand in a school at Zokok Laddeo. Mr. Yannig Dussart, - M&E Specialist Education, UNICEF reports, “The school looked fine from the front, but when we moved to the side we were shocked to see half the school having been washed away in the river.” One of the school wards, Sanoussi Noula, 12 years, was sad to see his classroom collapsed and no longer there. The President of the Parent’s Association Mr. Aminou Moussa had no option but to close the school, much to the disappointment of 565 students on its rolls.
The continuing rains are driving people to seek safer places. People in Maga town in Far North region fled from their villages when the river breached its banks and had no option but to take shelter in Guirividic, a small town of about 1000 people. Today, Guirdvidic has about 10,000 people.
Justin Haman, the father of 32 children with four women, walked 15km trek from his village SIMATOU, to Guirividic. For three days the family took shelter under a shanty roof with nowhere else to go. Mrs. Haman, the eldest mother is doing her best to feed the wet and cold children - distributing the fast diminishing corn and bread which they carried along with them.
Limited food distribution has been carried out by the authorities, but full nutritional need of children like these may be compromised in the long run, if quick help is not provided.
Since both these regions fall under the cholera endemic zone, latrines and drinking water stations are critically needed where populations are taking shelter. Quick partial or complete rehabilitation of schools is required to help children back to school without impacting their education.
UN supply of tents and school items restore normalcy for the flood affected families
A collective UN response has been the highlight of the relief being provided to the flood affected families. Quick coordination between UNICEF and UNHCR helped ensure tents were in place for the affected families.
The biggest of the three camps established by the government in Guldvirik - Far North region hosts 3000 people. UN supplied tents can be seen doting the field. Mr. Chawayang Gabriel was particularly lucky to find place in time at the camp. He said, “I am very fortunate and happy to have found shelter with my 12 family members here for the last 3 days”. The government continues to look for more tents to host the affected families.
The health support for the host families is being ably provided by army doctors in the camp. Dr. Oumarou is one of them, he has treated 267 cases in the last three days. The most common conditions are severe malaria, schistosomiasis, and diarrheal diseases. Mrs. Sanou’s child was hospitalized here suffering from malaria. But she was happy when doctors intervened and there's the child is already getting better.
Responding quickly to the Minister of Basic Education (MINEDUB) urgent request to provide shelter to families and start temporary schools, UNICEF supplies like tents and school kits pre-positioned at Doaula, Bertoua and Ngaoundere were quickly deployed to affected areas. $54,000 worth of materials (tents, hygiene kits, sleeping mats, school in a box, water jugs, drinking glasses, recreational kits, ECD kits, and additional school supplies such as exercise books, pencils, pens and slates) were made available in both the regions.
The education kits will soon be of help to children staying in the camps or those who had to leave behind their homes. UNICEF Education technical staffs continue to provide support to the MINEDUB Rapid Assessment Team sent to the most affected zone. Reports of infrastructure needs are arriving daily from the field mission.
Much needs to be done and the next few days will be critical in ensuring all help is provided to the affected families.