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The plight of fleeing Cameroonian refugee women

Chu Bernice Chang, a 23-year-old mother holds her second child. She fled the war in Cameroon and now leaves in Takum, Taraba State, eastern Nigeria.   -  
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KOLA SULAIMON/AFP or licensors


This hospital in Takum, in eastern Nigeria, offers free family planning and postnatal care to female refugees who have fled conflict in bordering Cameroon.

Bernice is visiting the hospital for a check-up for her second child, Royalty, born here in Nigeria a month ago.

She will never forget the circumstances of giving birth to her first child before fleeing her village in Cameroon.

Aged 21 she delivered her daughter without any help.

"The military occupied the hospital where we usually give birth. So, due to that incident, I had to give birth at home because there was no hospital," said Chu Bernice Chang, a Cameroonian refugee.

Access to health care has deteriorated dramatically in English-speaking Cameroon since the start of the conflict.

Five years ago, anglophone separatists declared independence in Cameroon's two anglophone regions.

Since then, the conflict has raged in the majority of French-speaking country.

"During that time, when we were escaping to the farm because when you escape to the bush when they leave the village, we would come to the village and stay. But when they are coming again, when you (hear) the sound of a gun, you just pack your things and go. That's why I was saving some money. When it was ok for me to travel, I had to leave," revealed Chu Bernice Chang, a Cameroonian refugee.

At least one million people have fled their homes due to the fighting, according to the UN. Nigeria has recorded more than 70,000 refugees.

Women fleeing the conflict face many difficulties, among them access to sanitary products when they are on their period.

Geraldine resorted to using her child's nappies while fleeing her village.

But when she arrived at the Adagom III refugee camp in Ogoja, she was trained to stitch reusable pads.

"By the time we get back to our country, I know I will do well, more than this. Because here, since we are refugees, they are giving us (these) for free. When I get back to our country, I know I will (make) have a lot of money in these menstrual hygiene pads," said Geraldine, a Cameroonian refugee.

With prices of sanitary pads surging in Nigeria, Geraldine is able to earn a living with her new skills.

She now sells her hand-made pads outside the refugee camp, to Nigerian women.

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