World Humanitarian Day 2020 in Bamenda - Real Life Heroes
Until you listen to the stories of heroes who have been to the field, you will never know what it truly takes to be a humanitarian. The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary defines a humanitarian as someone who is concerned with reducing suffering and improving the conditions that people live in. In the course of celebrating real life heroes on World Humanitarian Day, it was awe inspiring to know how men and women in the North West Region of Cameroon, young and old alike, have been selfless in helping their community in the midst of a double crisis situation (COVID-19 and Civil war).
The 19th of August 2020 marked the recognition of humanitarian workers around the globe, with special emphasis laid on celebrating the heroes at the fore front, braving the odds to deliver much needed assistance. In Bamenda, it was a grand celebration that took place at the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa (CHRDA).
The first thing that caught our attention was the synergy of humanitarian organizations that came out in numbers to unanimously make known their efforts under the umbrella of Change Care Foundation. To us, this meant not only that there are people who deeply care about the well-being of other people, but that these people are determined enough to bring their voices and efforts in unanimity so as to strengthen themselves and fortify their efforts in humanitarian action against the CoVID-19 pandemic, and the current socio-political crisis that has plagued the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon for four years now.
After every organization had given an explicit introduction of themselves and the work they had been doing, to our immense awe, we proceeded to listen to presentations from the various key players. The first presentation came from the Secretary General for Persons with Disability in the North West Region. With so much passion and enthusiasm, she highlighted the challenges disabled people experience relating to the standards put in place to fight the virus. One that was very unique to us was when she mentioned that social distancing cannot be applied to persons with mobility disorder, especially those that need help getting into and out of their wheel chairs, and other basic activities like bathing and dressing. We write this because it had never come to our attention that these are the realities in which we live. She also brought to the light other issues like the challenges faced by persons with down syndrome, the visually impaired, the hearing impaired, and the omission of persons with disability from the national emergency plan. At the end of her 40 minute talk which rather seemed like it only lasted for 10 minutes, the next speaker from the Stay Safe Foundation, in a talk, brought to our attention the vulnerability of the internally displaced persons (IDPs) to contracting the virus especially given the unhygienic and inhumane conditions under which they live. He made it clear that negligence and misinformation among the IDPs is a top risk factor exposing them to contamination.
Representatives from Women Empowering People (WEP), and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and Nutrition, both humanitarian non-governmental organizations also spoke about some challenges they have faced as forefront actors in the fight against CoVID-19. Some of which are:
- Skepticism about the existence of the virus;
- indifference on the path of adults to adhere to the prescribed preventive measures., amongst others.
Crowning the day was a visit by a powerful delegation, consisting of members from national organizations under the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) and OCHA (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) who came to recognize the efforts of the synergy of local Humanitarian NGOs present at the event.
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