One of the most damaging effects of conflict is the way it disrupts and destroys the social life of children. Children are often forced to move into refugee camps where they may wait for years in extremely difficult circumstances, hoping for their normal life to resume.
Like many others’, 12-year-old Shimon Favour’s life was deeply affected by the on-going Cameroonian Anglophone Crisis. In 2018, her family escaped death but was forced to flee from the Furawa subdivision, Cameroon.
”I can’t remember the exact date,” Shimon said, “Everybody was running, and my grandmother took us, we ran from the village with my mother. We trekked through the mountains and forest for two days without food and crossed rivers until we got to a place where a man on a motorcycle helped us get to Takum.”
The refugees who fled to Nigeria due to the crisis in Cameroon sought safety in different communities in Taraba State, Nigeria. They were faced with many challenges relating to food, accommodation, livelihood, education, gender-based violence and general protection concerns.
In her words, Shimon narrated the harsh reality: ”During the first week, we did not have much food to eat, we were barely eating three times a day, everything was just strange and new to me and the way of life here was just different. On getting to this place, we did not have where to sleep, we spread wrappers on the ground to sleep during the night and we were bitten by mosquitoes”.
”JRS supported my mother during a cash distribution initiative and she used the money to boost her business. The profit has helped us to meet some of our basic needs and even the nonfood items given to us by the JRS helped us a lot,” she attested.
Children playing at a Child Friendly Space in Takum, Taraba State.
In 2021, JRS, with funding from UNHCR Nigeria, established Child Friendly Spaces (CFS) in two areas of intervention, Sarduana and Takum. The project aims to protect Cameroonian refugees by establishing mechanisms and structures that will alleviate the psychological and emotional distress exerted by the ongoing crisis.
Shimon explained: ”I met JRS when my mother took me to the Child Friendly Space in Takum and got me enrolled. JRS means a lot to me because I can now talk publicly, associate with other children and even lead my team during a group activity in the Child Friendly Space. The CFS Facilitator engaged me in a one-on-one conversation to get to know me because I was reserved and not ready to talk or associate with others. After the session and engaging me on activities, I’m now able to play with other children and lead activities”.
She continued, ”What makes me so happy and safe is whenever I visit here, I get a chance to play new games with my friends. I feel so happy now and I do not think about those bad things that always scared me”.
In testimony to this, Shimon’s mother commented, ”As a mother, I have known my child before she started going to JRS CFS, she was a quiet child and found it difficult to relate and interact with other children to the extent that reading became very challenging to her. But ever since she started going to the CFS, I noticed a great improvement in the way she relates with other children in our neighbourhood and has improved in her academic performance. As a mother, seeing my child happy and excited again gladdens my heart, and I express my immense gratitude to JRS for this assistance rendered to my child”.
Conflict destroys the possibility for healthy living, and it becomes very difficult for communities to give children an environment that fosters healthy cognitive and social development.
JRS will continue to accompany those who have been displaced and lost their families, communities, and villages due to violent crisis – whenever the need arises.