Cameroon: Hope in the face of despair – The struggle of a displaced widower and his determination to be reunited with his two young daughters

I first ran to my children and found the younger one was struggling to get to safety, but her legs had been burned.

After making sure they were safe, Kingsley went back for his 7-month’s pregnant wife, but there was no way to rescue her as the roof of their home had fallen on her.

She said I should go and if I insisted on saving her, we would both die.

Kingsley sustained serious burns as he struggled in vain to save his wife. She died that night, leaving him and her daughters homeless and in fear for their safety. The family fled to the nearby bushes, accompanied by other villagers. Together, they spent several months sleeping in the open and surviving on bananas, avocado and anything else they could find.

The serious burns that Kingsley had sustained and his deteriorating health forced him make the decision to go to Buea, the capital of the South-West region. There, he received an invitation from a friend to join him in Yaounde to look for work opportunities. Kingsley left his two daughters behind with their aunt in Kumba, a place located in the South-West region, and set out for Yaounde in the hopes of finding a way to provide for his family. Unfortunately, things did not turn out the way he had expected.

My friend asked me to come here but since I arrived, I’ve never seen him.

With no one to turn to in Yaounde, Kingsley spent five days either sleeping outside or in the empty buses at a travel agency. Luckily, one of the bus loaders at the agency was kind enough to give him 500 Francs (less than 1 Euro).

He told me to go to the Obili neighborhood because there are a lot of Anglophones (English-speaking people) there, and I might find my friend.

However, Kingsley was unable to find him and had to spend his nights in Moghamo Park, an open space in Obili. Despite everything that was happening, he refused to give up hope. He soon established new connections and started selling pineapples on the street. His main concern at that point was the injuries that prevented him from working for long periods.

I was still feeling pain. I bought buckets, a knife and seven pineapples but I couldn’t even sell half of them. I would start to feel weak and had to go rest.

His situation would likely have worsened but a lucky encounter helped him start the journey to recovery.

One day while I was in church, I introduced myself to the worshippers as an internally displaced person. In the congregation, there was member of a humanitarian organization named HARO (Hope and Rehabilitation Organization) who came to see me after the service.

About two months later, HARO took Kingsley off the streets and provided him with a better place to sleep. With the new support, he was able to take up a new income-generating activity of selling juice at a high school. In addition, Kingsley received a financial contribution from the ICRC to cover his market stall rental fees and buy some provisions.

Although Kingsley is still facing challenges, he hopes to be reunited with his daughters one day.

I contact them from time to time. I would love for them to come here and live with me once I can provide for them, because in Kumba, they are not safe. And they are not going to school. For now, I don’t have a house, I sleep on a veranda, but I will struggle to make sure that they can join me.

To limit the humanitarian impact on the population affected by situations of violence, the ICRC collects relevant information from all available sources to present credible allegations of violations of humanitarian principles to the alleged perpetrators.

We use the information gathered to engage in a confidential and bilateral dialogue with arm carriers and provide specific recommendations to spare the population and their belongings during situations of violence.

Source : Icrc