As the crisis in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon worsened and hospitals were overwhelmed with botched amputations, injuries, and infections, the medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders launched an emergency medical response in North-West Cameroon.
The organization as at now supports a good number of medical facilities and a network of community health workers who provide primary healthcare and referral services to displaced and vulnerable groups.
One of the hospitals that has benefitted from this response is the 76-bed Saint Mary Soledad hospital in Bamenda. In this hospital, the DWB teams offer free medical care to pregnant women and young children, and medical, surgical and psychological care to people who have experienced intentional and non-intentional trauma, including victims of car accidents, sexual violence, armed violence, burns and domestic accidents. They have also set up a 24/7 ambulance service to transport patients in need of urgent care.
Forty year-old Jacob Muluh was brought to this hospital in December 2020, after he was hit by a “stray” bullet during a confrontation between separatist fighters and the military in one of the neighborhoods in Bamenda.
The bullets nearly severed his right limb, but after five surgeries and months of rehabilitation he regained movement in her arm and fingers.
“I don’t know where else I would have gone since the local Clinic where I was first taken to and the Bamenda General hospital where I was later referred to could not immediately attain to me,” Muluh, told The Humanitarian Watch over the phone. “I could have lost my future completely.”
Not any more….DWB activities put on hold “pending definition of the framework of activities”
But many with such complications like Muluh might not be lucky to benefit from such services, at least as at now as the Governor of the North West region Adolphe Lele L’Afrique has reportedly suspended the partnership activities between Doctors Without Borders and some health facilities, Saint Mary Soledad hospital.
This is the substance of a document purportedly signed by North West governor on December 8, 2020 which made rounds on social media which the Humanitarian Watch could not immediately verify its authenticity.
“The partnership between Doctors Without Borders (DWB / MSF) and Saint Maria Soledad Catholic Hospital Bamenda as well as similar partnership with other health facilities in the North West Region are with effect from the date of signature of this DECISION, suspended pending definition of the framework of activities for Doctors Without Borders (DWB / MSF) by the Ministry of Public Health” part of the decision reads.
Officials of Doctors without Borders in Bamenda refused to comment on the issue when The Humanitarian Watch contacted them and authorities at the North West governors were not ready for any comment.
When this reporter tried to contact the ambulance service of DWB to verify if they could be available for an emergency, the receiver simply replied that their services were currently unavailable.
However, a source at the Regional Delegate of Public Health for the North West, the body charged with the supervision and implementation of the decision that opted for anonymity confirmed to have come across this decision.
Doctors Without Borders, Cameroon Government Relations going Sour?
The recent outing of the North West governor comes to add proof to the deteriorating relations between Doctors without Borders and the Cameroon government that has continuously accused the medical organization for partiality in their operations.
On August 31st, 2020 Dr. Modeste Tamakloe Koku, Head of Mission of the Organisation in Cameroon was in an audience with Cameroonian authorities allegedly to answer to such accusations.
During the meeting, the Ministers of External Relations and Territorial Administration reportedly asked the DWB head to urge his members to be more neutral and impartial during their interventions in the three troubled regions of the country; Far North, North West and South West regions.
After each accusation, DWB has always denied wrong doing and continuously reiterated that their primary objective everywhere they operate is to provide medical assistance to people requiring emergency medical care, regardless of nationality, religion or political affiliation.
Population wish for redress of Governor’s decision
“My sister almost put to birth at home today as it was a ghost town as there was no means to transport her to the hospital” recounted Joyceline, a resident of Bambili in the North West region.
I had failed to prepare for any eventuality since I was sure that the ambulance service of DWB could help me if the right moment come on a day like this ghost town but I was shocked when I called and I was told they are unavailable. The governor needs to redress this suspension”.
Like Jocyline, there are many others who are wishing that government should redress the suspension or rapidly define the framework of activities for Doctors Without Borders (DWB) by the Ministry of Public Health. Many are unanimous that the services of the organization have been.
In a recent media outing, Dr Jifon Edwin Fonyuy who is in charge of the DWB admission and follow up of patients who arrive in the emergency room of Saint Mary Soledad said they treated more than 2,000 people in the emergency room and performed 1,500 surgical procedures with ambulance drivers who work day and night and transporting more than 7,300 patients.