On a fateful day in 2017, Elizabeth, a mother and grandmother from the town of Batibo in Cameroon’s Northwest Region, went to her nearby farmland to tend to her crops, as she did each morning. But this time, as she was returning home, she learned that her apartment and neighboring buildings had been taken over by an armed group. It was an increasingly common and unfortunate consequence of ongoing conflict in the area. She and her family were forced to flee to Bamenda, the region’s capital, unable to take any of their possessions with them.
Elizabeth, a participant of the ACER II project, in her home in Bamenda, Cameroon, with some of the children she cares for. Photo by Louis Blaise Djilo for CRS
Since arriving in Bamenda four years ago, Elizabeth says her biggest concern has been to provide enough food for her family. While she looks for daily work in the fields, she says it is often difficult to earn enough money to feed her nine grandchildren, for whom she is the primary caregiver.
So Elizabeth applied for assistance from the Anglophone Crisis Emergency Response II, or ACER II, project, which is working to meet immediate humanitarian needs and improve food security for families from 32 communities in the country’s Northwest Region. The project is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance.
“The day I saw a message from the ACER II project, informing me that I was selected, it was a joyful moment!” she says.
As part of the ACER II project, Catholic Relief Services and our partner, the Archdiocese of Bamenda, with the support of Caritas Bamenda and the Justice and Peace Commission of Bamenda, deliver monthly food rations, as well as non-food items, via electronic vouchers, to nearly 19,000 vulnerable people, including 12,665 internally displaced people, such as Elizabeth.
Elizabeth and other participants like her are able to shop in local markets using their smart cards to purchase diverse and nutritious foods, as well as essential household items, such as cooking pots, utensils, mattresses and sheets, clothes and personal hygiene products. The use of the electronic vouchers provides families with the flexibility to customize the quantity, size and quality of such items, according to their specific needs and preferences. Participants of ACER II also receive monthly credit to purchase soap and were able to purchase two reusable cloth masks at the beginning of the project, as part of the fight against COVID-19.
Elizabeth says that, thanks to ACER II, she and her family are now able to eat three balanced meals each day. They have also been able to improve their standard of living by purchasing some essential household items. And, as Elizabeth continues her work in the fields, she is now able to set aside some money as savings.
“I thank God, the donors and the organization daily for the assistance,” Elizabeth says. “I pray that God continues blessing these efforts with success and that the project will also help other people like us who are in need.”
The ACER II project builds on the achievements and lessons learned from the USAID-funded ACER and Emergency Market-Based Food and Non-Food Item Support projects, implemented by CRS and our partners from May 1, 2019, to March 31, 2021. The ACER project supported 27,762 vulnerable displaced people and host community members from 3,917 households in the Mezam Division of Cameroon’s Northwest Region, while the previous emergency market-based project assisted 29,876 individuals from 3,904 different households.