Cameroon’s government is asking the public to donate money, food and clothing to help offset the growing needs of its soldiers and refugees, including those respectively fighting and fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency on its northern border with Nigeria.
A humanitarian crisis looms in the conflict zone, government officials say in explaining a campaign marked by containers placed at the entrances of supermarkets and other popular gathering spots. Residents are putting money and food in those containers.
FILE - A Cameroonian soldier guards an observation post in northern Cameroon. Cameroon has asked the public for donations to help feed troops and refugees.
At the military base in Yaoundé, Cameroon Defense Minister Edgard Alain Mebe Ngo'o read a long list of food items and basic goods donated to aid soldiers fighting Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists as well as the Nigerian and Cameroonian civilians escaping them. More than 300,000 refugees in the country are estimated to have fled the insurgents in the north or carnage in the Central African Republic.
An impressive response
Mebe Ngo'o said that he’s impressed with the public response to calls for assistance and that he has mobilized several military planes to transport food to Cameroon's northern border with Nigeria.
A food crisis looms in northern Cameroon, said the country’s trade minister, Luc Magloire Mbarga Atangana. He supported the government’s call for continued public support, given the overwhelming and growing needs of soldiers, refugees and internally displaced people. They no longer can go to their farms or take care of their livestock.
They need basic goods such as sardines, sugar, butter, meat, rice, bottled water and soap, the minister said.
The federal government also is asking local councils for donations, said Celestine Ketcha, mayor of Bangante in western Cameroon.
She said state resources are stretched too thin. Business people can help in the fight against Boko Haram and broader terrorism by donating food, money and water for their military, Ketcha said, adding that soldiers cannot defend Cameroon while hungry.
Call for accountability
Bande Derek said he has happily donated money and a ton of rice, but the businessman wants the government to make sure there is no fraud.
"In the end, what Cameroonians need is accountability,” he said. “Let them see that what they chipped in helped the nation come back to a peaceful situation."
Colonel Kodji Jacob, who commands Cameroon troops on the border, told VOA that accounting systems were being implemented to track donations and ensure they to go where intended.
Military troops urgently need water, which is in short supply, Jacob said. He added that each soldier consumes three to four liters a day in the harsh climate, where temperatures sometimes reach 40 degrees centigrade or 104 Fahrenheit.
So far, all money donations collected in the containers have been channeled to the military, but many Cameroonians have called for opening bank or other accounts to minimize the risk of theft.
Last year, Cameroon called on the international community to help it cope with the humanitarian crisis. Responders include the World Food Program, a United Nations agency, which distributes rice, high-energy biscuits and other nutritional supports in health centers and refugee camps.