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UN Security Council to hold first meeting on Cameroon

The UN Security Council will hold a first informal meeting on Cameroon this month to discuss a worsening humanitarian crisis that has left three million people struggling for food.

The United States is organizing the May 13 meeting after persuading African countries on the council to drop their initial reluctance to talks on the two-year separatist conflict in Cameroon’s west.

South Africa, a non-permanent council member, had expressed reservations, arguing that the African Union was leading the international response to the crisis, according to diplomats.

“It’s long past time for the Security Council to address what’s going on in Cameroon, where we’re seeing a devastating humanitarian crisis,” a spokesperson for the US mission to the United Nations said Saturday.

“We hope this meeting will draw more attention to this disaster and encourage a more robust regional and international response by member states, the UN, and civil society in order to prevent the situation from deteriorating even further.”

Cameroon is wracked by a conflict between separatists and government forces in its English-speaking west, combined with an influx of refugees from the Central African Republic and Nigeria.

More than one in six people in Cameroon — 4.3 million — need humanitarian aid, an increase of 30 percent from 2018, according to UN aid officials.

The meeting will have a particular focus on the separatist conflict, according to a note sent by the US to the council on Friday and seen by AFP.

More than 560,000 people have been driven from their homes since 2017 including 32,000 who have fled to Nigeria, the note said.

– Starving children –

Rights groups have accused the United Nations of ignoring the conflict in Cameroon, where separatists in English-speaking regions are pushing for independence from the majority French-speaking country.

The government has responded with a crackdown, deploying thousands of soldiers.

More than 200 members of the security forces and at least 500 civilians have been killed, according to figures from the International Crisis Group think-tank.

Cameroon is also reeling from the spillover violence in neighboring Nigeria, which is battling Boko Haram insurgents and from ongoing turmoil in the Central African Republic.

Three million people are in need of food aid, tens of thousands of children are out of school and 220,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition, according to the US note.

In February, the government and aid groups launched an appeal for $299 million to fund humanitarian needs, but only 11 percent of that amount has been raised.

“Cameroon has not witnessed a humanitarian emergency at such a scale, and the causes of the different crises are but intensifying,” said the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Cameroon Allegra Baiocchi in late April.

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