Children playing at the Minawao Refugee Camp in Cameroon
By Andrew Nsoseka
Nestled within the Far North Region of Cameroon, the Minawao Refugee Camp has served as a sanctuary for thousands of displaced individuals fleeing turmoil and persecution in neighbouring Nigeria. Since its establishment in 2013, this refuge has been jointly managed by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Cameroonian Government.
At present, it provides shelter, sustenance, and essential services to more than 65,000 residents, primarily comprising Nigerian refugees who have endured the ravages of insurgency and violence within their homeland. Despite the daunting challenges of overcrowding and resource scarcity, Minawao offers a lifeline of protection, education, healthcare, and livelihood support, enabling refugees to rebuild their lives. It stands as a testament to the indomitable spirit of its inhabitants who relentlessly strive for a brighter future in the face of adversity.
This humanitarian endeavour has not gone unnoticed. International aid agencies and organisations have worked tirelessly to provide indispensable assistance, ensuring that Minawao’s refugees receive the vital aid they require.
The camp remains an essential beacon of safety and optimism for the displaced, providing a semblance of normalcy amid trying circumstances. Presently, the most pressing needs within the camp include food, shelter, healthcare, and education.
In response to these pressing needs, The Mary Dinah Foundation, in collaboration with USAID, has extended the reach of the Zero Hunger Program to the Minawao Refugee Camp.
This programme focuses on micronutrient supplementation and food assistance, with the overarching goal of curbing morbidity and mortality caused by malnutrition.
Established in London, UK, in 2006, the Mary Dinah Foundation has been actively engaged in humanitarian projects for 17 years.
Its Zero Hunger Program has made significant strides in combating food insecurity and malnutrition in north-eastern Nigeria.
The Foundation’s multifaceted approach aims to empower refugees and displaced persons and encompasses the distribution of food supplies, promotion of infant and young child feeding practices, raising awareness about hygiene and gender-based violence, and improving access to basic healthcare services.
This initiative has already distributed 42 million meals, primarily targeting pregnant and lactating women and children less than two years of age, while also providing nutritional supplements and multivitamins.
Over the past year, the programme has focused on distributing 8 million meals annually to the refugee population in Minawao camp. This food assistance includes essential staples like rice, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Mary Dinah, the Managing Director of the Zero Hunger Program, expresses her commitment to this cause in her own words, stating, “We are pleased to assist with the ongoing emergencies in Minawao Refugee Camp. I’ve always believed the hardest people to reach are the most important to reach and hence we’ve expanded our mission to support Cameroon in a big way.”
Furthermore, the programme actively promotes best practices in infant and young child feeding through targeted sensitisation efforts among women and girls. While at its core, the programme addresses nutrition and food security, it also extends its impact to other vital sectors, including healthcare by facilitating referrals to antenatal and routine immunisation services, Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) through hygiene promotion, and child protection and gender-based violence by establishing referral pathways for victims.
These comprehensive activities empower women and foster a more inclusive community, ultimately leading to improved economic outcomes.