The educational programmes of almost 2,000 Chadian students in Cameroon have been disrupted by the raging global COVID-19 pandemic.
The obviously stranded students are receiving assistance from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to return home safely from Cameroon.
IOM is working in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the government of Chad.
The Chadian students decided to return home after the COVID-19 spread to their host country.
Many however reached the border on foot, crossing into the Chadian provinces of Logone Occidental and Mayo-Kebbi Ouest.
Upon their arrival, they were quarantined for 14 days along the border. None tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.
Nonetheless, most now find themselves without resources to continue their journeys to the capital N’Djamena, 450 kilometres from the quarantine centres.
IOM, at the request of the government of Chad, supported the students with transportation, chartering special buses headed back to their communities of origin.
One of the students who is enrolled in a Masters’ degree on Human rights and humanitarian action in Yaoundé, Abacar, says “what a journey! I went to a travel agency in Yaoundé to pay for my transportation with my own money to go to the Far North, in Yagoua.
“They took my temperature in Yaoundé then I took a bus to Yagoua”, he continued. “Then, I paid for a moto-taxi to take me to the Bangor river border and finally I took a pirogue to the gendarmerie station where they called an ambulance to take me to the isolation centre in Chad.”
The EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration is the first comprehensive mechanism to protect migrants in West and Central Africa.
The fund made a special allocation of 50,000 Euros through the EU Emergency Trust Fund for Africa that allows these students to return home.
Cameroon is one of the African countries most affected by the coronavirus. In a bid to curb the spread of the pandemic, Cameroon closed its land borders on March 18.
The UN migration agency believes thousands are stranded in the country’s northern regions, where universities have large numbers of foreign students, particularly from Chad.
With 46 cases of COVID-19—yet no fatality- confirmed as of April 27—Chad, too, has closed its land and air borders, schools, universities, religious buildings and non-essential businesses.
Public transport is strictly limited. Several provinces are enforcing curfews. IOM is working closely with Chad’s government and other partners to ensure that the most vulnerable population groups are protected and assisted.
IOM Chief of Mission in Chad, Anne Kathrin Schaefer, says “since the borders closed, we have been informed of regular arrivals of Chadian nationals in the country.
”This worries us; as most here have no opportunities to safely return to their families after having used their meagre resources to purchase food, water and other essentials during their quarantine period.”
Measures taken by governments to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in West and Central Africa have left more than 10,000 migrants stranded at borders or waiting in transit centres across the region.
To sustain humanitarian operations, the EU-IOM Joint Initiative is working towards securing humanitarian corridors in countries of origin and of transit.
Additionally, it is helping to find solutions to bring to safety thousands of migrants waiting in transit centres.
A Chadian woman who had been studying modern literature in Yaoundé, Maiguididigui, says “when the COVID-19 crisis ends and if I find the means, I have no other option than to return to Cameroon to complete my studies.
“I’m so glad that we are being assisted to return home. We were all wondering how we would do to reach our towns.”