It’s a rainy Monday night in Bambili, a neighborhood in Mezam division of the North West region of Cameroon.
Besides the rain and darkness on this day, movements on Mondays in this neighborhood just like in other areas in the North West and South West regions is always difficult if not impossible as a result of what has come to be refered as the the “traditional Monday Ghost town” imposed by separatist fighters on the population in the four year armed conflict that has paralized activities in the two regions.
Linda, a pregnant woman in this locality is expecting her baby soon but has been praying it happens on a “normal day and normal hour” as she has sickle cell disease, a blood disorder that increases the risk of death during childbirth.
“When I felt the contractions start that fateful Monday night, I was really worried especially as movements are prohibited on Mondays in Bamenda, so I didn’t know what to do.”
It was then that she made calls and was advised to seek the Ambulance Service of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an advice that eventually paid off.
I called the MSF ambulance and fortunately, the vehicle arrived quickly. Barely an hour after calling them, my daughter was born. Without the ambulance, we could both have died” narrated Linda as she looked at baby and smiled.
Like Linda, many patients in need of urgent medical care have benefitted from MSFs 24/7 ambulance service in the North West region.
According to the organisation, those who are mostly concerned are not only those with childbirth and pediatric emergencies, but also those with other medical conditions such as patients with perforated ulcers, severe malaria, respiratory infections, or snakebites. Around 5 percent of patients transported by this MSF’s ambulances are victims of intentional violence.
Going by Dr. Jifon Edwin Fonyuy, an MSF doctor who manages admission and follow-up of emergency room patients at Saint Mary Soledad Hospital, a health facility supported by MSF in Bamenda, thier ambulance drivers work day and night, and have transported more than 7,300 patients since 2018.
Frederick was brought to Saint Mary Soledad Hospital hospital by the MSF ambulance with bullets in his skin.
“I was kidnapped by unidentified gun men and taken to an unknown destination for being an informant to the military. After two days of torture I was shot three times and when my kidnappers discovered I was weak and almost dying, they carried me to my house and dumped me by the door” narrated Frederick.
My wife called Doctors without borders and thanks to thier timely arrival, I was taken to the hospital and then doctors took care of me. My leg was amputated but I’m happy I’m alive”.
The 42 year old teacher who after he was discharged has moved to another region has accepted his “fate but remains for ever grateful to Doctors Without Borders”.
Joys, 27 will never forget “that fateful day”. Late last year during one of the confrontations between the military and separatist fighters that caused commotion in the town of Bamenda, Joys boarded a bike and on the way she had an accident. She went unconscious and only discovered her self in the hospital days after.
The bike rider died at the spot but Joys, seriously wounded and bleeding was carried to the Hospital by the Doctors Without Borders ambulance that had been called by a passer-by as she later learnt.
That call from a good Samaritan and the timely intervention of Doctors Without Borders saved my life. The medical and psychosocial support given to me helped me a great deal” observed Joys.
Since 2018, the worsening situation in health care prompted MSF to launch an emergency medical response in the North-West region. They now support several medical facilities and a network of community health workers who provide primary health care and referral services to displaced and otherwise vulnerable people. The 24/7 ambulance service is just one of the few medical interventions of MSF in the region.
By Njodzefe Nestor