When herders, fishermen and farmers clashed over dwindling water resources in Cameroon’s Far North region last December, Tomma Ndjinda was caught up in the violence.

“Our village was attacked and we were forced to flee without having time to take anything with us,” she says.

Ndjinda headed south in search of safety with her husband and seven children, ending up at the Ardjaniré displacement site in Bogo. The site currently hosts around half of the 4,200 people in this area who fled the worst intercommunal violence ever seen in Cameroon’s Far North.

The Bogo community welcomed the new arrivals. However, resources here were extremely scarce. Faced with a desperate food shortage, Ndjinda’s husband went back to salvage what he could of their crops and other possessions.

“My husband tried to return to our village to harvest sorghum in our fields,” said Ndjinda. “But when he arrived, he discovered that migratory birds had eaten everything. All our belongings were also destroyed.”

Tragically, her husband never made it back, and Ndjinda believes the shock of seeing what had become of their home led to his sudden death.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi visits Bogo relocation site for internally displaced people in the Maroua region during a three-day visit to Cameroon in April 2022. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse

“Our village was attacked and we were forced to flee without having time to take anything with us,” Ndjinda says.

Tomma Ndjinda and her family fled violence over scarce water resources in Cameroon’s Far North in December 2021 and now live in Bogo relocation site for internally displaced people in the Maroua region. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse

Now, Ndjinda is caring for seven children on her own with no income. She doesn’t know how they will survive.  

“We are running out of everything. When the children get sick, I can’t take them to the hospital.”

The climate crisis is exacerbating competition for water and other resources in this part of Africa’s Sahel region, where temperatures are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Water levels in Lake Chad have decreased by as much as 95 per cent in the past 60 years. This is having a devastating impact on communities that rely on the Logone and Chari Rivers that feed the lake on Cameroon’s far northern border.

On a three-day visit to Cameroon last month, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi met with Ndjinda and other displaced families affected by the recent violence.

“Beyond efforts made by the authorities and the generosity shown by host communities, the needs for food, education and health care remain,” Grandi said.

“We have also heard concerns over pressure on local services, underlining the need to increase our support to both displaced families and members of the local community who are hosting them.”

UNHCR and partners are working to establish safe relocation sites and deliver life-saving aid including water, shelter and household items. Together with the Cameroonian authorities, UNHCR has also led conflict resolution efforts aiming to end the violence.

“Identifying the causes of conflicts and addressing them would ensure peaceful cohabitation among communities,” Grandi said. “Reconciliation and reconstruction are key to pave the way for voluntary and safe return of displaced families.”

He also called for an assessment of reconstruction needs in areas affected by violence.

During his visit to Ardjaniré, the High Commissioner visited a reforestation project that will plant 2,000 trees to help address the desertification exacerbated by the climate crisis. This project will also provide additional resources and income opportunities for displaced and local communities.

The project is part of the Great Green Wall initiative, which aims to grow an 8,000-kilometre continent-wide barrier to combat land degradation, desertification and drought in the Sahel.

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UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi meets Tomma Ndjinda and her family in their shelter in Bogo relocation site for internally displaced people in the Maroua region. © UNHCR/Colin Delfosse

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