Maimouna is emotional in one of the refugee camps Garisingo in east Cameroon when she recalls the horrific journey she took from Central African Republic (CAR) to Cameroon in 2014 following an ethnic conflict between two communities. She struggles to describe exactly what she saw and experienced in those last few days and weeks in CAR,

She has a family of 9 persons.  At her home in the CAR, Maimouna made a decent living with her husband doing agriculture, buying and selling animals. It put a roof over her family and provided three meals a day. All that changed 5 years ago, when violence in CAR reached her community.

Maimouna and other affected population were running for their lives with no food, houses damaged, livelihoods collapsed and schools shut leaving them no option to cross over and take refuge in another country for safety.

Being a mother, she did not care about her own safety; could not stop her emotion and affection to include 9 other children with her family who were either left orphaned or disabled by the impact of conflict. Maimouna with her extended family moved with minimal belongings, walked for days, nights and months covering hundreds of kilometres and going through inexplicable challenges on their way. At last they managed to cross the border and take shelter in a neighbouring community in Cameroon.

Maimouna is among the 372,542 refugees from CAR, amongst which 267,813 are living in the east region of Cameroon.

Abdou, another refugee from CAR works in a farm nearby to the camp with a limited income. Like Maimouna, Abdou is equally happy to stay in Cameroon. On his return to CAR, he endorses that he will only return when peace and social cohesion has been restored.

Maimouna and Abdou are beneficiaries of a monthly cash transfer of 7,040 FCFA (€ 10.7) per person, per month in their families. This transfer is made by Plan International, supported by the World Food Programme.

I could see a glow of happiness and satisfaction in Maimouna’s eyes where she says “now it is much better. We are more secure, and thanks to Plan International, we have basic food support through cash. It gives us choice and dignity to select our own food items. We would not like to go back to CAR until UNHCR ensures there is peace and safety for us. If nothing will disturb us, we would like to stay here.”

Maimouna with the cash support manages food for her own family and also the extended family of 18 members. She is happy to say that the amount of 7,040 FCFA (€ 10.7) is satisfactory to manage food security for a month per individual. This support has helped women and girls to have improved protection and thus do not need to go out to look for food outside the camp.

Plan International Cameroon with support from World Food programme is supporting a total of 34,722 beneficiaries from 6,825 households to CAR refugees for ensuring food security through Cash modality.

Miriam Castaneda, Country Director for Plan International Cameroon is a great of advocate of Cash-and-Voucher-Assistance (CVA) and proudly says “CVA is more efficient and effective. Plan International Cameroon is seen as an experienced actor on CVA and we intend to take it forward”.

Maimouna and other women have plans to come together form a Village Saving and Learning Association (VSLA). This matches with the objectives of Plan International’s BMZ project.

The BMZ project seeks to reduce the dependence on aids on social basic infrastructures in the communities affected by the Central Africa conflict in Cameroon and CAR. This project is funded by the German Ministry of Economic Cooperation and is implemented in 11 communities in two divisions in the east of Cameroon. It has three components Protection (priority to child protection and Gender Based Violence), Education and Livelihood components.

For the livelihood component, Plan International Cameroon and CAR with the help of Plan International Global Hub CVA team have conducted feasibility studies to link cash and voucher as modality with the livelihoods.

CVA modality is increasingly becoming as one of the preferred modalities of responding to emergencies in Cameroon and CAR. Plan International has reached close to 2 Million beneficiaries with a cumulative growth of close to 75 Million USD in the last 5 years. “Plan International Cameroon has developed a strategy to reach more vulnerable girls and boys in need, and with the availability of additional funds, the implementation of the strategy will unroll” adds Miriam Castaneda.

By Syed Mohammed Aftab Alam

Cash Based Programme in Emergencies Specialist (Global lead), Plan International Headquarters, Disaster Risk Management Department