Two hundred Christian families escaped alive when Boko Haram militants attacked the village of Roum in Cameroon’s Far North Region on 10 July. Why did they all survive? Because they had decided to sleep in the bush instead of in their houses – a precaution taken because of so many other recent attacks on nearby villages.
The foresight of the Roum Christians saved their lives, but they still lost everything they owned. The jihadists set fire to their homes, killed their livestock and plundered their food-stores of millet. With their clothes, bedding and other possessions destroyed, the believers are now living in a local school.
“These attacks led to great fear, psychosis, trauma and panic,” wrote a Cameroonian church leader to Barnabas Fund, listing all the villages which had been targeted by Boko Haram militants since January 2019.
July to September – the hard and hungry time
To make matters worse, northern Cameroon has now entered its “lean season”. In this region the annual harvest of maize and millet occurs in mid-October. During the last three months before harvest, food stocks from the previous year have run low. So now it is harder than normal for relatives to provide for displaced families who have joined their household, adding many extra mouths to be fed.
July, August and September are also cool and wet in this mountainous area adding to the problems of those sleeping in the open.
Barnabas Fund is providing urgent aid for 1,120 displaced families. Distressed and disoriented, most of them have nothing but the clothes they were wearing when Boko Haram attacked. As well as food and bedding, each family will receive soap and bleach because, during the wet season, cholera and other waterborne diseases are a danger in the mountain areas.
The costs per family are:
100kg sack of maize or millet £30 ($38; €34)
2 blankets £14 ($17; €15)
2 sleeping mats £16 ($20; €18)
5 bars of soap and 2 litres of bleach £6 ($8; €7)
Total aid for one family £66 ($83; €74)
Including transport, communications and other administrative costs on the ground in Cameroon, the total needed is £77,900 ($96,500; €86,600).