Recovery in Cameroon

Refugees Rebuild in Minawao Camp

An estimated 372,000 refugees have sought safety in Cameroon. Many have fled conflict in neighboring Nigeria and the Central African Republic, while others have headed south from the Lake Chad region as conditions continue to deteriorate there. Among other places, International Medical Corps works in Cameroon’s Far North Region, which borders both Chad and Nigeria, and is the first point of entry for many refugees.

During World Refugee Week, we want to celebrate the men and women who are so much more than “just” refugees. They are brave individuals rebuilding their lives, one day at a time — often with the odds stacked against them.

In Minawao Refugee Camp, we help individuals recover and rebuild by providing primary healthcare, mental health assistance and nutrition services, among other services. In this article, we step inside the camp to meet a few of the residents there.

All photos courtesy of Patrick Meinhardt.

Marta survived three separate attacks from terrorist organization Boko Haram before fleeing for her life. In the last attack, she was attacked with a machete and left for dead. Every time she goes to sleep, she has nightmares about the attack.

Djoumai has been at Minawao Refugee Camp for only a short while. After Boko Haram killed her neighbors and stole all of her possessions, Djoumai made the agonizing decision to run away from her village — while seven months pregnant. She now fears for the health of her unborn child.

Fatima* fled Nigeria in 2015, after her husband was killed in front of her. Suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Fatima struggles to sleep — and, when she does, she is haunted by nightmares about what happened.

Members of Minawao Refugee Camp enjoy ergotherapy, also known as occupational therapy. Thanks to these activities, men and women recovering from mental health conditions and physical illness learn new skills, such as sewing, as well as new ways to express themselves.

Through counseling sessions, refugees living in the camp are given a safe space to share experiences, listen to and support each other, as well as discuss how they are feeling. Adjusting to their new reality — hundreds of miles away from home and far from loved ones — can, understandably, be extremely difficult. Expressing these feelings is not easy, but the process is often a first step toward processing what they have been through, so that they can continue their road to recovery.

We’re helping refugees in Cameroon and across the world recover and rebuild — and you can be part of it. Join our mailing list today to learn how you can change lives.

*Name changed to protect the individual’s identity.

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International Medical Corps relieves the suffering of those impacted by conflict, natural disaster and disease by delivering medical relief and training.