Tuberculosis stalking Cameroonian new-borns

Heavily pregnant women at the verge of giving birth and nursing mothers in Cameroon have been shivering from the trauma emergent from news that, the BCG vaccine, one of the first vaccines administered to children after birth to prevent tuberculosis  is not available in Cameroon.

This news has left many parents worried, as tuberculosis is an air borne disease which usually affects the lungs. Asongafac Emilia, a parent of two says, “It is unheard of and very risky. I think the Government is joking with the lives of babies because this is a vaccine which is to be available at all times and at all costs.” The Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda has called on nursing mothers in Cameroon to be cautious and not expose their children to bacteria which transmit tuberculosis.

This warning which is contained in a release signed this December 6, 2017 further states that Cameroon is out of supplies of the BCG vaccine, the vaccine that protects young children against tuberculosis. The Public Health Minister explained that the situation experienced this December 2017 is due to a blockage of orders in the international supply chain for the vaccines. Minister Andre Mama Fouda, however, reassures Cameroonians that the vaccine will soon be available in all health facilities.

The Health Minister’s ranting has mirrored the usual cavalier approach to governance in Cameroon. The tendency is always to wait for flames to attain petrifying dimension just so that fire brigade can be brought in to show that work is going on and government expresses concern about the plight of its citizens. Such a very important issue that relates to lives cannot be the object of after-thought approach to it procurement. The vaccines are supposed to be stocked permanently and not on a seasonal basis.

By *Atemebeh Ngewung Lordfred

‘Mercy Ship’ evaluates Cameroon operations

Whether the inherent lesson in the recent evaluation exercise embarked upon by the management of Mercy Ship that berthed in Douala some four months ago will induce Cameroon’s local administration to see the necessity to factor in monitoring and evaluation as important instruments in the management of projects in Cameroon remains a matter of conjecture.

The above contentious circumstance notwithstanding, 1,100 people have successfully undergone surgery since the Mercy Ship anchored in Douala, the organization has said.

During a working and evaluation session held recently in Douala to assess its operations since they arrived Cameroon in August, the organization revealed over that 1,100 surgical operations have been carried out as well as 3,000 tooth-related cases treated. In addition, over 600 Cameroonians have been trained in service assistance in various types of surgical operations.

Cleft lip repairs, club foot, cataract, obstetric fistula, tooth ache are so far the main pathologies that have been treated. Sixteen out of 30 hospitals have also received a surgical security check from the World Health Organisation.

After the two-day evaluation meeting, the coordinator of the Mercy Ship’s Technical Secretariat Iyong III, said the quality of treatment given to the patients and their positive response bodes well for their next operations. While noting that the number of patients has drastically reduced, the coordinator praised the various departments for sticking to and implementing their task at over 80 percent.

One criticism the Mercy Ship has received since anchoring in Cameroon is the complex procedure for patients to register and benefit from the free treatment. This drawback has been acknowledged by the organization as well as the Ministry of Public Health. Consequently, the presentation of the national identification card is no longer required by the patients to get registered. Other additional measures will equally be taken to ensure that the patients get easy access to the treatments.

Four thousand (4,500) patients are expected to have benefited from free treatment by the end of June 2018 when the organization would have wrapped up its mission in Cameroon.

By Francis Ajumane

 

Gov’t envisions maternal mortality extinction

Rattled by the resilience of the maternal mortality scourge over the years that statistics in Cameroon has put at 600 deaths recorded out of every 100,000 deliveries, the Southwest Regional Delegation of Public Health organized a Regional Coordination Meeting involving all stakeholders under the theme, “All hands on deck for the fight against maternal mortality” recently in Buea.

Southwest Public Health stakeholders

Although the world is advancing, Cameroon does not seem to have made any progress in the sphere of mother and childcare. This explains why between1998 to 2016 there has been great increase of maternal deaths. In order to put an end to this plague relating to women who die while bringing life to the world the Regional Delegation has pledged unalloyed commitment to the cause.

Their mission is to make the Southwest Region a pacesetter Region in reducing maternal mortality with the goal to increase uptake of family planning services from 20 to 50 percent by 2020. Presentations during the meeting, revealed that effective uptake of family planning would reduce maternal mortality by 33 percent. Hence, there is the need to involve the community in scaling up family planning because much resistance still comes from the men, especially, in the rural communities. In order to reduce maternal mortality, there is also a goal to train 60 traditional birth attendants in the Region for follow up when a woman is pregnant,

The Southwest Regional Delegate of Public Health, Dr. Mbome Njie Victor revealed that maternal mortality is a concern nationwide because it is one of the most challenging health indicators as statics shows that maternal mortality in Cameroon is 600 deaths per 100,000 deliveries which is still very high.  For the Southwest, between 2016 and 2017 the Region recorded about 80 and 40 maternal deaths respectively.

According to him, many factors contribute to maternal mortality rate in Cameroon. Scientifically, he said that there are issues linked to the management of patients’ lateness to the health centre, lateness to actions being taken within the health centre, issues related to ignorance, and poor family planning.

He did not however, undermine the role played by traditional birth attendants because in some communities, there is still the absence of health centers, ignorance and strong traditional beliefs. Nevertheless, since deliveries are carried out by Traditional Birth Attendants, TBA, whether medical doctors like it or not, they will have to work hand in glove with them so as to save the lives of women. Already, according to Dr. Mbome, there is an ongoing training of TBA with about 16 of them already trained. This is in a bid to let them know the danger signs, follow up ANT and bring them to the hospital.

According to Dr. Eban Kingsley, District Medical Officer, DMO, for Akwaya, the terrain is difficult. Because of the poor accessibility, to him, patients cannot really get to the hospital in time. Going by the three ‘Ds’ in relation to maternal deaths according to Dr. Ebanare; delay by patients. Most of them to him are illiterates not knowing the dangers of pregnancy. Also, he said that, there is the delay along the road which is from the woman’s home to the health centre. Since Akwaya is enclave, most often it is difficult to arrive at the health centre in time and lastly, the delay in the hospital.

For Dr. Ngum Terence, DMO, Bakassi they are plagued with the problem of poor equipment and personnel. He stated that he has just a lean staff and in a crisis like cholera breakout, they would run into serious problems.

By Relindise Ebune

Demolition deadline elicits anxiety among Yaounde swamp dwellers

If the six-month demolition deadline recently ordered by the Mayor of the Yaounde VI Council relating to inhabitants of the valley in the vicinity of ‘’Guarantee Biyem-Assi’’ is anything to go by, then victims have barely four months to know their fate, two months into the issuance of the order that has seen over one hundred houses being earmarked for demolition. Anxiety, disbelief and helplessness have gripped these inhabitants as the days go by in the countdown to the demolition exercise, even as they fulfill the formalities sanctioned by the mayor’s order.

Taniwan Bertin, had been energetically emptying a drainage in his backyard at the moment The Rambler sought to know his feelings with the imminent demolition of his house situated behind the steep slope of ‘’Guarantee Biyem-Assi,’’ commonly referred to in the area simply as ‘’pays-bas Biyem-Assi.’’

‘’If the Council authorities actually mean business to destroy our houses without compensating us adequately, I believe I may just develop a heart attack,’’ Mr. Taniwan,is a ‘’truck pusher’’ in his late thirties and a father of six children lamented. He lives with his family in a three-room house which he toiled and constructed barely three years ago. He recounts: ‘’when they marked our houses for eventual destruction, they requested every owner to go and deposit a photocopy of the land title, building permit, national identity card and telephone number. I have already fulfilled these requirements.’’ Quizzed on whether he had an idea of the motive of the order, he said ‘’I learn this order is because we are living in a swampy area but this is a false pretext because we have constituted a local vigilante committee here which arranges all drainage systems that are susceptible to overflow when heavy rain falls.

The situation of Mr. Taniwan, mirrors that of hundreds other inhabitants of swampy areas in the Biyem-Assi neighbourhood of Yaounde. Situated directly behind ‘’Guarantee BiyemAssi,’’ it covers an expanse of swampy land, which has for long attracted many people from across Cameroon who had come and constructed their houses. But an order by the newly-elected Mayor of Yaounde VI Jacques Yoki Onana, on October 31 this year, marked all houses constructed on this swampy land for eventual demolition within a six-month deadline.

One other inhabitant had this to say: “We don’t know what the council authorities want again because at the time we were constructing these houses, they collected FCFA 35,000 on two different occasions from us. Were they not aware then that the area was swampy? More frustrating, we paid for this very piece of land twice from the owners who claim to be the aborigines of this area. The first time they collected FCFA 5,500 per square metre while the second time they collected FCFA2,500per square metre. If they really mean to destroy our houses, they should continue. We are tired of this.’’

This other inhabitant laments the nature of the area in question. “I have lived here for over seven years. When it rains, we suffer from flooding since some of our neighbours construct without respecting the various drainage systems erected causing water to inundate our houses.”

Meanwhile, a source which opted for anonymity confided in The Rambler that the phenomenon of marking houses in the nation’s capital for eventual demolition is recurrent and often used as a maneuver to extort money from owners of houses. ‘’some of the houses are even marked just as a sabotage or to settle scores with their enemies’’ the source hinted.

By Nalova Akua Mambeh

Young ‘mungwin’ catchers disappear, reappear

Whether it takes the colouration of poverty or simple adventure as inducement, the hunt for ‘Mungwin’ or edible green grasshoppers has become an intriguing phenomenon in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Not even cases of accidents from encounters with unruly drivers and missing loved ones have been able to dissuade devotees of this adventure from reveling in the nightly sorties.

It is in response to this fad that inhabitants and Christians of the Catholic Church Mile 4 Bamenda Nkwen are now heaving a sigh of relieve after two missing schoolboys who had gone hunting for mungwin were found and returned home to their family Monday, November 27.

Boris and Louis, sons of Rene Ngu had been missing since Friday, November 25, 2017 around the Mile 2 neighbourhood on their way from school. The boys aged 11 and eight reportedly left home for school on Friday, but never returned.

According to the account of the event as narrated by the father Rene Ngu when contacted, his fear had gone beyond imagination. “I feared the worst had happened to my boys. I have been traumatized since they went missing and the fear worsened because I could not say exactly where and how they had gone missing. They don’t live with me. They have been with their grandmother since she lives by the school they have been attending. She only called me late Friday that they boys had not returned from school. I was frightened that maybe they had been kidnapped. Because you know since threats have been going around that children should not go to school, anything could have happened to them.”

According to him, with the curfew that was in force, he quickly went around that day in search of them but had to return home before 10pm. “After making several reports on the case to the police and some announcements in church and around, two days went by and nobody turned up with any news of the where about of the boys. Considering it was weekend, nobody could give a directive at the boys’ school. It was until late Sunday evening that a woman from around Veterinary Junction called and said she had found the boys around a garage.”

According to Boris, the older of the two, they had left school then got distracted by grasshoppers popular known as “munguin,” which were falling around the road on their way back from school. So they dropped their bags to catch some of the grasshoppers only to come back and could not find their bags. Then for fear of returning home without the bags they went in search of them.

“We did not see our bags when we came back. We had to look for the bags we slept in a car at a garage for two nights. All the “munguin” we caught, we sold it for 1300frs and I bought sleepers for my brother, then we bought bread and juice until one aunty came and took us to our father. I did not know where we were again,” Boris recounted.

Inhabitants of the neighbourhood where they live had been panic stricken as many said they feared the kids might have been kidnapped, especially, as threats on schools, children and parents for continuous school boycott has persisted. Many Christians who got the announcement of the missing kids in church indicated they wouldn’t be sending their children to school unless a clarification is given on where the boys had gone.

By Jean Marie Ngong Song

Anglophone crisis breeds gender based violence

Wirba Hassan NW Regional Delegate MINPROFF

The trendiness of the Anglophone crisis as excuse for all that has failed to function as expected in Cameroon was on display in Bamenda recently during the launching of a book titled “16 stories for 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence, GBV, with focus on girls and women with disabilities” by the Group for Rehabilitation and Inclusive Development, GRID, Network as part of activities to mark this year’s 16 days of activism against GBV. One of the promoters of this perception is no one else than the Regional Delegate for Women Empowerment and the Family for the Northwest, Wirba Hassan who has blamed the socio-political crisis in the Region for aggravating violence against women and girls.

“The socio-political crises being experienced in the Northwest/Southwest Regions have further aggravated cases of violence on women and girls. Cases of rape, teenage pregnancies, and outright violence abound, especially, as many girls are out of school,” he affirmed.

The delegate observed that women and girls experience different forms of violence in the society ranging from “corporal punishment, physical violence, sexual abuse bondage, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, rape, excessive labour, early and forced marriages, unwanted pregnancies, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, incest, forced prostitution, rape as a weapon of war and deprivation of liberty…”

With this year’s 16 days of activism GBV being observed with the “No one should be left behind, put an end to violence against women and girls,” Wirba Hassan described the theme as one which takes all to task. “Besides the work that MINPROF is doing with its partners, the men need to constitute themselves into a task force to join in this fight because these women and girls are mothers, sisters, daughters and above all wives to men.”  He praised the GRID Network for coming up with the book and standing by his ministry in combating violence against women and girls and most importantly those living with disabilities.

Speaking on behalf of the GRID Network as to why a book was chosen as part of this year’s observance of 16 days of activism against GBV Dr. Loius Mbibeh, Coordinator of the network explained that the book launch was used as a tool because it was discovered that a lot of celebrations and documentation enshrined therein on women and girls with disabilities will raise more awareness and shall remain there and people, generation to generation can consult the document. On accessibility, he added: “we are going to put it on different platforms like YouTube, audio formats, so that if you cannot read you can listen to somebody read for you.”

Lynn Cockburn GRID Network Project Lead while prefacing the book justified the title of the book. “We chose 16 Stories to represent the wide range of responses that women and girls with disabilities, and their allies and advocates, have shown in the face of difficult situations.  These are difficult stories to read because of the brutality and violence contained within them – but they are also stories of compassion, strength, resilience and hope for improvement.”

Founded by the Socio Economic Empowerment of Persons with Disability SEEPD Program, Asheri Ngah representing the Project Manager and Anyangwa Sylvia leader of the Gender and Disability Inclusive Development Group of the GRID Network took turns to emphasize the need to intensify efforts towards ending violence against women and girls specially those living with disabilities as the book carries “stories of compassion, strength, resilience and hope for improvement.”

By Jean Marie Ngong Song

Mutual Health to curb health financing issues

Fomujong Elias: Board Chair

Health financing has been and is a big problem in Cameroon. Many precious lives have gone as a result of lack of finance for their medical bills or to begin treatment when the disease was at a basic level. It is at this backdrop that Mutual Health Organization, an autonomous, non-profit and apolitical community based Health Financing Organization created in 2014, is aimed at overcoming financial barriers to quality health care.

Operating on the principles of solidarity, pre-savings and risk sharing against health related risks, its manager Numbe Alida, revealed that, mutual health’s objective is to bring quality health care closer to the population, promote solidarity, and encourage the population to develop the habit of pre savings for their health in order to alleviate poverty and to enhance community participation in health related programs. To become a member as stated by her, one needs to register with FCFA 1000, and as a family with FCFA 5000 yearly. “Once generated income, 75 percent is used to pay health bills of members. 15 percent for running cost. 5 percent budgeted as reserved and 5 percent for marketing” Numbe stated.

Going by Numbe, Mutual Health Organization is a non-profit making Organization and in 2014, 11 families and 5 groups registered and became part of the organization. However, the number started experiencing a diminishing as the years went by. “In 2015, five families and eight groups became members. In 2016, three families with no group while in 2017, just one family and two groups registered and became members” revealed Numbe. According to her, there is a lot of resistance at the level of health centres and hospitals especially Government owned which accounts for the low enrollment and retention of members.

According to the Board Chair, Fomujong Elias, many are not aware of what is happening in Mutual Health Organization, so they thought that through the General Assembly, they will create awareness and sensitize the public on what they are doing and what they stand to benefit by being a member. To him, it was also an opportunity to analyze what has ensued so far in the organization, the shortcomings and way forward. He stated that, they have had a series of meetings with health facilities since it is at the level where they have most of the problems they have encountered. He said that, in order to deal with the problems they are facing with the medical centers, they have identified such health facilities and as one remedy, they have stationed in the facilities, one focal person such that when their beneficiaries go there, they move directly to the person. The focal person will then lead them through the process so that they will not have those headaches they used to encounter at the facility.

Present during the event, the third Deputy Mayor, Mosoko Edward Motuwe called on the public to make maximum use of the organization at this time when the economy is not at its best. He also called on them to carry the goodwill message to all stakeholders and for those present, to take the renewed commitment so that the next General Assembly will experience an improved membership and participation.

By Relindise Ebune

Himalayans privilege Bamenda with library and health center

Himalayans in Bamenda

After Kumbo where the NGO-Himalayan Institute of Cameroon has since 2007 been dispensing humanitarianism in the domain of health and education, Bamenda capital of the North West is presently being treated to same humanitarian gesture. This is prior to the inauguration of a library and health center at Sama῾s Care Azire on Friday November 11th 2017 by the Himalayan Institute of Cameroon.

Ten years after establishing its headquarters in Kumbo, the HI reckoned it was time to begin extending the scope of its good will beginning with Bamenda. They have opened a library with over 6,000.000 books and a health center that would welcome patients and entertain those who come for body checkup during consultation. These services would be dispensed at the premises of Sama῾s Care (an NGO) which the HI is a partner to. In his inaugural speech, the president of Himalayan Institute Joseph Shey Chemson was poised that “today the Himalayan Institute Cameroon in partnership with Sama῾s care is proud to open this new library and Health Branch Center for the people of Bamenda as a way to share the institutes fourth branch center in the North West  region each of which conforms to the policies and practices of the main center, Library and total Health Center at our headquarters in Kumbo” He explained that the mission of the facilities is to promote preventive health care, literacy, vocational training and micro enterprise initiatives which would promote health, educational advancement, and economic empowerment. Partakers at the event were predominantly youths. They were allowed to view the kind of books and medications made available by the HI. Books of different types including fiction, nonfiction, psychology, sociology, literature, science, health, novels, children books, family books, religion, spirituality and curricular books was brought to the knowledge of the public. The public was also made to know that the health center offers treatment basically on drugs processed from natural plants and organisms. Medicines that work for skin rashes, energy boosters, respiratory infection, brain and memory enhancers and toxic removals was also exposed to the public’s view. The chief executive Officer of Sama῾s care Mr. Ngwana Sama  whom the library and health facility has been entrusted spoke with emphasis that “the library is a powerful weapon that can change the society positively and therefore our vision is to build this culture so that tomorrow, history would record that this community library has been the area where by resources were gotten, knowledge acquired and Cameroon was built to be a Cameroon where everyone would like to live in.”

He  frowned on the issue where reading in Cameroon is purportedly tied down to curricular books and preparation for exams which is greatly limiting knowledge.  He thus vowed to implement programs that would catch the attention of people in informal sectors such as housewives, bike riders, mechanics, farmers and black smiths where the culture of reading is largely absent.

Stakeholders of the newly inaugurated institute said they would offer facilities at affordable prices. Registration for access to the library ranges from FCFA 500 to FCFA 2000 depending on the age group and social background. Partakers at the launching ceremony left with satisfaction and a zeal to revisit Sama῾s care for the said services they render.

By Mildred Ndum Wung Kum

Thunderstorm Leaves 30 Students unconscious

At least 30 students of the Government High School in Bepanda are on a recovery path after going unconscious following a heavy thunderstorm on Friday.

There was total confusion in the Bepanda neighbourhood in Douala V municipality as parents rushed to school to collect their children on Friday morning after being alerted of the scene.

The heavy downpour in the city of Douala that morning had brought with it thunder strikes leaving at least 20 students unconscious, most of whom were girls.

According to eyewitness reports, the thunder strike led to a short circuit in two of the buildings which led to light fire in the building sending most of the students into panic.

The affected students were immediately rushed to the Presbyterian Health Centre in Bepanda where they have been receiving treatment.

“We put them (the students) under serious medical care immediately they were brought here,”       the head of the health centre Dr. Chouamo Andre said.

At least 10 of the students were later diagnosed with asthma which most probably must have caused them to succumb to the thunder strikes, Dr.  Chouamo added.

“We discovered that many of them had developed an epileptic shock and some of them were asmathic,” he said.

48 hours after the incident, most of the students were in stable condition while some had been discharged but doctors said they will continue to be monitored for at least two weeks to ensure full recovery.

By Francis Ajumane

Mungwin: grasshopper hunting that defies danger, flavours diets

Amid danger of being accidentally killed by oncoming vehicles or falling in gutters, inhabitants of the Northwest Region of Cameroon have engaged in frenzy occasioned by the lure of “Mungwin”, a light-chasing green seasonal grasshopper that has over time served as supplement and flavour to most of their diets.

To this effect, locals there are making amazing treasures out of green grasshoppers. The hopping insect known in local parlance as “mungwin” has become either supplementary or indispensable as it forms partof or whole meals.

Green grasshoppers are flying insects that set in during October and disappear by December. Their naturally green colour turns brown when cooked for eating. The hunting of this insect is common in localities like Bali, Bamenda Bambili, Bambui, Babanki and Chomba. For people who cherish eating green grasshoppers, they eat them in varied forms in various combinations such as mungwin/corn fufu, mungwin/bread, mungwin/sweet-yams, mungwin/fried-plantain, mungwin/cocoyams.

Grasshoppers, locally called ‘Mungwin’

In some cases, others eat green grasshoppers exclusively without necessarily combining with other foods. Divine Foy, is a constable who works with a telecommunication company. He expressed that “During mungwin season, I eat mungwin at least twice a week in place of roast cow meat. Mungwin has its season which if you miss eating it, you have missed but other forms of meat would always be available. I like it because it is delicious and I know that it has nutritional benefits even if I don’t know the specific nutrients it contains.”

In the opinion of Robert Munga, retired civil servant, mungwin has no bones and it is easy to chew “I like eating green grasshoppers because it is very easy to chew. The insect tastes so good and has a lot of natural oil even though it is not cooked with oil. I see it like meat without bones.  I don’t really consider eating it as food but I just consume it as a chewable. I cannot deny eating it because I have seen other people enjoying it.”

It is also funny to note that some people dislike green grasshoppers because they regard it inferior. Brunhilda Bih Bong, is one of those who think that “green grasshoppers are similar to cockroaches and ants. I cannot eat something that flies around and creeps on the ground. I just pity people who eat them because they have not bothered to find out whether it is harmful to the system or not,” she complained. The green grasshoppers could be spotted along streets and in markets sold in minute quantities at minimum FCFA 100 and in buckets at FCFA 2,500.

Hunters of green grasshoppers trap the insects at night with the use of white florescent lamps, corrugated roofing sheets and basins of water. The trap is set in a way that the lamp attracts the insects. The insect flies around the lamp and settles on the corrugated sheet. The corrugated sheets are set in the form of a slope, so when the insect settles on the metal, it slides into the basin of water and the hunting is complete. After hunting, the hunter treats it as desired. It is either sold to consumers or consumed by the hunter. Health experts have revealed that green grasshoppers are nutritious and healthy because they are rich in protein and minerals and lower in cholesterol than beef or pork.

By Mildred Ndum Wung Kum