Balana Susana is a migrant who had nothing and has now found a new purpose in life. Thanks to assistance from the Refugee Welfare Association Cameroon (REWAC), her dignity, purpose in life and ability to provide for her two children have been returned to her.
REWAC is a grassroots non-governmental organisation (NGO) that promotes, defends and enforces international humanitarian law in Cameroon. It aims to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants who have lost their homes and livelihood.
“I am so happy today. I am a widow. I lost everything when our house was burnt down in Belo village. I ran away with my two kids. I had to beg pots from the neighbourhood to cook the little food I managed to get. I turned it around and gave back the pot to the owners and today I have a pot and other items that will help me and my family,” Balana said.
Other than providing for their basic needs, the organisation wants to empower displaced people by getting them back on their feet through education and vocational training.
More than 90 per cent of REWAC staff are volunteers. Apollinaire Shu is one such volunteer who lives in Bamenda, a city of about two million people in the northwest region of Cameroon.
Apollinaire is an accountant by trade, but he takes time out to help organize the collection and distribution of food and clothes in his community. He is glad to have the opportunity to support people like Yufola Verona Kinyuy. Originally from a village in the outskirts, she’s a single mother who just had triplets. Donations helped to pay her hospital bill and milk for her babies.
“There are many internally displaced people and refugees in my city and I know many personally. I joined REWAC because I see the dedication of their efforts around me. It makes me happy to help those in need,” he explained.
Cameroon is sometimes called “Africa in miniature” because of its geographical and cultural diversity. Impressively, the Central African country has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, but its economic progress has been hampered by corruption and many consecutive years of authoritarian rule.
The socio-political crisis since 2016 has seen the primarily anglophone regions of Cameroon in the north-west and south-west suffer most from confrontations between the military and non-state armed groups (NSAGs). These regions make up about 20 per cent of the country’s estimated 25 million population.
Civilians caught in the crossfire were forced to flee their homes in search of safety. This has resulted in significant numbers of internally displaced people (IDPs), as well as Cameroonian refugees in neighbouring countries such as Nigeria. According to the International Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC), there are a total of 969,000 IDPs in Cameroon as of May 31, 2020.
“I had to run for my dear life in the night when they were shooting and burning places in Bambui village. I was not able to take anything. I am a person living with a disability. I have been suffering begging from people but today I have benefited from this project. I am very happy because today my name was called and I have received my things and I want to thank REWAC,” said refugee Shu Zacheus Nforsi.
REWAC is founded by a group of local legal professionals. It works alongside other organisations trying to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, such as the UN Refugee Agency, the Cameroon government, and other international development partners.
Their work is funded entirely by donations and the organization seeks donors to help effectuate the efforts to save lives and give hope to vulnerable migrants and IDPs.
All the work being done by REWAC can be found on its website: