The general violence that ensued from the anglophone crisis has scared many Cameroonians, especially persons with disability, PWDs.
For four years, people living in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon have been caught up in the conflict between armed separatists fighters and the Cameroon military.
The pain of this violence is most felt by people living with disabilities in the regions.
Some of these persons have been displaced from their homes, victimised or striped of their basic income sources.
Before the start of violence in 2017, PWDs, were involved in income generating activities like road-side hawking and handicraft.
According to a report published by the Community Resource Centre for the Disabled and the Disadvantanged (CRCDD) in Bamenda, people living with disabilities in the embattled regions are the worst hit by the crisis, as they can not help themselves anymore due to the violence.
Talking to CRCDD, a woman, identified as Florence, testified she has been living with disability for three years at the Ntaturu quarter in Bamenda.
This neighbourhood, she said, has witnessed frequent military attacks as they believed it was a separatist fighters hideout.
“During such times, I am left on my own to face the realities of my disability without support as all the members of my household flee for safety. I could not go along with them because of my enormous disability challenges,” she said.
Before the tension and violence worsened, Florence says she was running a handicraft workshop at the Commercial Avenue, a popular business avenue in Bamenda, Cameroon’s North West regionional capital.
“One day shooting started between the military and separatists as I was riding my tricycle towards Hospital Roundabout. As I struggled to increase my speed so that I could find safety somewhere, my tricycle somersaulted and I was thrown into the gutter. Since I am disable, I could not help myself out.I lay in that filthy gutter for five hours before a good Samaritan helped me out. For the five hours, the sun shone on me and later it rained on me. I was soaked in the dirty water in the gutter,” she said.
She explains that the ugly experience and others have urged her to now confine herself at home with corresponding consequences of hunger, poor health care, and loneliness.
Beside the pains of suffering as a result of the tension, some physically challenged persons have lost their lives.
According to an internally displaced woman from the South West living in Douala, her kid sister died in Mbalangi in the South West because she could not run.To Embangha Precilia, “When the military came to the village, we all ran to the bushes leaving her behind. I could not carry her along. We only returned to see her body. I feel guilty sometimes for not being able to carry her along but I still question why the military will burn an entire village in the process of searching for a few fighters.”
Precilia felt the pain of not only losing a loved one but someone that had a disability.
As violence persists in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, persons with visual impairment have also suffered enormous pains. According to Community Resource Dentre for Disable and the Disadvantaged (CRCDD), a woman suffering from eye problems was literally trampled upon as she attempted to run for safety when military men attacked separatist fighters in her Mbinfibi quarter in Mankon Bamenda.
To the Woman, “…as people were running, I followed. There were planks along the road but since I could not see, I hit my legs, fell and started bleeding with no one to help. I barely struggled to get back to my house after several hours, and stayed in the quarter for four days alone until people began returning.
To the general coordinator of Community Resource Centre for the Disable and the Disadvantage, disabled and disadvantaged people are living “in hell” on earth in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
Speaking to Mimi Mefo Info on phone, Limen Florence says, “Several disable persons have been caught in cross fire and abandoned to themselves.When people are running away in an area where there is shooting,we find ourselves stranded. Worst still, assistance from humanitarian bodies and other charity groups do not reach disable persons.This has further compounded our misery.”
People living with disabilities say their situation poses a double challenge in the midst of the crisis and therefore it is necessary for privileged individuals, development actors, governments and organizations to take special measures to assist them.
The greatest wish of this category of people is to see peace reign again while pointing accusing fingers at the ministry of social affairs for having abandoned them at a time when they needed assistance for a better living.
Mimi Mefo Info