Doctors Without Borders Demand Access from Government to Serve Humanity

Doctors without Borders believes that with continuous suspension on its activities in the Northwest region, while the armed conflict is still ongoing, will shatter the hopes of thousands who need urgent life-saving health care services on a daily basis.

"The services of Doctors without Borders are free, my old mother or father in the village will only have to dial their number and these doctors will go to their rescue. Ever Since their activities were suspended in the Northwest Region, it has not been easy to manage severe health cases in Bamenda, especially on ghost towns" a food vendor, in Bamenda explained.

In a Press Release issued by Doctors Without Borders on June 22nd 2021, they demanded that the government of Cameroon should lift the ban that suspends their activities in the Northwest region.

"Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is still denied the resumption of its healthcare care services in the region, six months after the forced suspension of its activities by Cameroonian authorities. MSF calls on the government of Cameroon to immediately lift this suspension and prioritize the medical needs of the population."

Given the violence in Cameroon’s anglophone regions of North-West and South-West, it has led to a catastrophic situation for the population; raids on villages, kidnappings, torture, destruction of properties, extrajudicial killings have become the new normal in what is commonly known as the “anglophone crisis”.

In 2018, in agreement with Cameroon’s Ministry of Health, Doctors Without Borders launched an emergency response to the critical health situation North-West and South-West regions by supporting health facilities.

Setting up the only free 24/7 ambulance services and supporting community health volunteers, in order to reach remote populations and those struggling to access healthcare facilities.

But on 8th December 2020, MSF was suspended from working in the North-West region as Cameroonian authorities accused the NGO of being too close to non-state armed groups in the area.

Despite months of discussions to respond to these allegations, MSF has been unable to restart its operations, leaving tens of thousands of people without access to lifesaving free health care.

Vital medical services have been denied for six months now, and this is taking an unacceptable toll on Cameroonian citizens, many of whom have fled to the bush, unable to bear the sights, sounds and threats of violence any longer”, says Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF Operations Coordinator for Central Africa.

This decision represents a substantial blow to medical and humanitarian access”. As we speak, our community health workers see people die and suffer because of the lack of treatment available in villages and displaced communities, and our ambulance call centre continues to receive emergency requests, which they are forced to decline." He added.

Doctors Without Borders demand that their operations cannot remain on hold indefinitely because the hold can later turn the situation to
a massive health crisis.

"While armed violence and violations of human rights have made the headlines in the past years, the impact of this crisis on people’s basic medical needs has often been overlooked in the international media. "

However, according to the latest UN figures, the flare up of violence in the anglophone regions of Cameroon has pushed more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, while over 60,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria.

Today, people’s living conditions are massively affected by the crisis and over 1.4 million people are considered in need of humanitarian support in North-West and South-West Cameroon.

Access to healthcare services is of major concern in the North-West and South-West regions”, says Emmanuel Lampaert.

Because of insecurity, lockdowns, curfews and the targeting of health facilities, access to healthcare is extremely limited, with at least one in five facilities non-functioning".

Displaced populations barely dare to move to health facilities, and the economic downturn has made it still harder to travel to hospital, or even to afford treatment.

Unsurprisingly, mortality among vulnerable groups such as women and children has increased , and the suspension of our medical support made the situation even worse.”

Doctors Without Borders have treated patients for rape, torture, burns and gunshots, the vast majority of patients have been those in need of medical assistance for childbirth, malaria or diarrhoea, especially displaced communities.

Last year, MSF-supported community health workers conducted over to 150,000 consultations for communities in both regions.

The support that was being provided by Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian organisations proved to be more vital as insecurity and attacks on staff have limited the number of organizations present at field level to provide lifesaving services.

We are one of the few medical organisations present in those two regions to respond to people’s emergency medical needs, in a very challenging context” says Emmanuel Lampaert.

Since we started our interventions, our medical staff, volunteers and patients have regularly faced threats and violence from both state and non-state armed groups, with very little respect shown for the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality.

"Our ambulances have been fired on and stolen, community health workers have faced sexual assault and murder, armed men have opened fire inside medical facilities, and our colleagues have faced death threats. Despite these extremely difficult situations, our staff kept on providing care to people in need, day after day.”

In 2020, MSF teams in the North-West region treated 180 survivors of sexual violence; 1,725 mental health consultations were provided; 3,272 surgeries were performed; 4,407 patients were referred by ambulance, of which more than 1,000 were women in labour; 42,578 consultations were provided by community health volunteers, mostly for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections.

Doctors without Borders has been working in Cameroon since 1984. It now runs a medical humanitarian projects in the far north, and in the South-West regions of the country.

"We have been working in the North-West and South-West since 2018 to provide maternity and obstetric care; surgical care; treatment for diseases like malaria, cholera and Covid-19; and an ambulance service available seven days a week, 24 hours a day to get people to hospital during emergencies."

In December, 2020, it's activities in the North-West were suspended by the Cameroonian authorities and many are yet to see the government allow them continue with activities, we they are known to offer free health care services.

By Ndefru Melanie


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