How the socio political crisis in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon is impacting community water schemes

By Roland Akong Wuwih

Two water schemes in the two English regions of Cameroon are badly hit by the ongoing socio political crisis. The Kumbo Water Authority in the North West region of Cameroon, and the Bonadikombo Water Management in the South West region of Cameroon.

In Kumbo, at least thirty thousand people no longer have access to drinkable water. They are now exposed to water borne diseases as they are compelled to drink water from doubtful sources like wells and streams”We have no other choice, we are forced to drink water coming from rocks, at times water coming from the stream or from wells”. A resident in Kumbo tells.

Women are the hardest hit by the acute water shortage in Kumbo Cooking and house chores demand a lot of water. “Water used to flow in our houses, but now we have to cover long distances with many containers to fetch for water” Beryl Florence a house wife in Kumbo tells us.

Ndzenyuy Nelson is a civil servant in the town; he tells us that he is obliged to spend on bottled water, because he doesn’t want to fall sick. Bottled water is expensive for the ordinary town dwellers and they need almost half a dollar to buy.

The water scarcity in Kumbo follows the hijacking of the water catchment area by armed separatists in Kumbo. We did not succeed in our attempts to know why.

The Boyz, as the armed separatists are fondly referred to, have burnt down the water tanks, destroyed the water pipes and connections flowing down town Kumbo.

The armed separatists have also diverted some pipes to supply water to their camps rather than to the population down town. The Kumbo water system was initiated in the 1960s and completed in 1972. It is a community water scheme realized with the financial support of the people of Canada, the Kumbo people, and the government also mobilized financial support for the project.

In 1984, government ordered SNEC, the then national water corporation of Cameroon to put a tariff on all public water consumption in Kumbo.

Residents say the tariffs were too high and many could not pay, so they were forced to drink from streams. The high tariffs were further compounded by poor services and rampant disconnection of pipes.

In 1991, the people of Kumbo launched demanding the eviction of SNEC from Kumbo, SNEC finally left and was replaced by the Kumbo Water Authority, a commonly based water management authority.

The Kumbo Water Authority reopened all the taps in Kumbo, extended water coverage and introduced a new tariff. Water was available and affordable in Kumbo, until the recent incident by armed separatist.

What the people of Kumbo now fear the most is that their water, their right and their life might fall again into the hands of the government who they fear might supply water but charge them to pay more.

Due to fear, the people of Kumbo say they are helpless in the face of the situation. The government of Cameroon has not made any statement. The Ministry Charged with water affairs in Cameroon has not reacted to. Unions of the water sector like SYNATEEEC have nonetheless condemned the situation in Kumbo.

Chief Ewoukem speaking to us says the issue is a senseless one, and has promised to write to the appropriate authorities.

The Bonadikombo Water Management

In Bonadikombo in the South West region of Cameroon, the socio political crisis in the region has provoked a surge in the population.

“The population of Bonadikombo has jumped from about 50-60.000 inhabitants due to the huge influx of IDPs, internally displaced persons fleeing the atrocities of the war, Prince Mokande, of the Bonadikombo water scheme says with the huge influx of the IDPs, they’re are now compelled to a water rationing in the area.

Njeck Divine, who chairs the water management committee, says water rationing means some people will have to stay up late at night to have water.

And some will even have to for a few days without water. Njeck Divine says Bonadikombo needs a new water catchment site, with large pipes. The water catchment in Bonadikombo has also been hijacked by armed separatists.

Here, “the Boyz” have not destroyed pipes, but have imposed a levy the water management committee must pay them for guarding and cleaning the catchment.

The Bonadikombo water system was initiated in 1971 by an American NGO, named Bread for Life. The system was jointly financed by the people of Bonadikombo, and the American NGO.

In 2014, the government wanted to take over the water system, promising better services to the population. But the population came out en masse to prevent the government move. Nonetheless, the government imposed its own water catchment and connections in the town.

“Very few people here drink the water from the government” a resident tells me. “Camwater as the government water corporation is called, is not only expensive, but is of poor quality and their services are not the best,” the resident adds.

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