Why are we there?
- Endemic/epidemic disease
- Refugees and IDPs
Cameroon: Latest MSF Updates
- Lake Chad: Too Much Violence, Too Little Aid
- People Living "In Sheer Terror" Around Lake Chad
- Tens of Thousands Flee Boko Haram Violence
- A Growing Humanitarian Crisis in the Lake Chad Region
This is an excerpt from MSF's 2015 International Activity Report:
MSF opened an emergency program in the far north of Cameroon this year in response to an influx of people fleeing violence in Nigeria.
Conflict and Boko Haram insurgency in northeast Nigeria caused hundreds of thousands of people to seek refuge in Cameroon, Chad and Niger in 2015. During the course of the year, violence spread from Nigeria into the three neighbouring countries, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands more. By December, there were some 70,000 refugees and around 90,000 internally displaced people in Cameroon.
In response, MSF started to provide medical assistance to people in several locations in the north of the country. From February, a team offered medical care, maternal services and nutritional support in the UNHCR-administered Minawao refugee camp. MSF also carried out water and sanitation activities, constructing latrines and showers, and supplying clean water. Some 58,000 people, both refugees and members of the local community, were vaccinated against cholera and tetanus in a preventive immunization campaign in August. In the towns of Mokolo and Mora, near the border with Nigeria, MSF provided specialized nutritional and pediatric care to the displaced and the local population, carrying out a total of 12,921 consultations. Nearly 5,000 children were admitted for care. In June, MSF started supporting the surgical ward at the local hospital in Kousseri, on the Chadian border, performing emergency interventions and cesarean sections.
In July, two suicide attacks in the city of Maroua caused a large number of casualties, and MSF helped the local health authorities to treat the wounded.
Assistance to Refugees from Central African Republic (CAR)
In the eastern part of Cameroon, MSF continued to assist refugees who had escaped conflict and violence in neighbouring CAR in 2014. MSF supported the Ministry of Public Health by providing medical, nutritional and psychological care to the refugee and host communities in Garoua-Boulaï, Gbiti and Batouri. The majority of patients were suffering from malnutrition, malaria and respiratory infections.
In July, MSF handed over its medical activities at the Protestant hospital in Garoua-Boulaï to the French Red Cross. During its year at the facility, MSF treated 1,635 children for malnutrition.
In the border town of Gbiti, MSF ran a therapeutic feeding center, provided primary healthcare consultations and referred severely ill patients to the district hospital in Batouri. MSF also supported the local health authorities at Batouri hospital in the management of patients with severe complicated malnutrition, the majority of whom were children under the age of five. Over 1,800 children were treated in the 90-bed therapeutic feeding center during the year.
CAR Refugees in Cameroon: "Our Children have become Stateless"
From February to October, MSF ran a health center at Gado-Badzéré camp, about 15 miles from Garoua-Boulaï. There was an outpatient feeding center and a space designated for individual and group psychosocial counseling sessions. MSF also carried out water and sanitation activities in the camp, undertook epidemiological surveillance, and implemented an early response to a cholera outbreak.
In March, MSF began working in Gbiti, another border town where more than 20,000 refugees have been registered. MSF conducted more than 1,000 medical consultations per week, supplied water, and built latrines and showers at a makeshift camp. Two mobile teams provided medical care to small pockets of refugees in the area. Patients requiring more intensive care were referred by MSF to hospitals in Batouri or Bertoua. MSF also supported Batouri District Hospital in the management of patients with severe, complicated malnutrition, and increased capacity to 150 beds.
At the end of 2015, MSF had 639 staff in Cameroon. MSF has been working in the country since 1984.
Natasha, 24 years old, was admitted to the Buruli program in 2007, with an ulcer on her left ankle. Five years later, she talks about her experience.
In 2000, while I was back home in Akonolinga, I noticed I had a little spot on my left ankle. I ignored it, thinking it was a mosquito bite.
Several days later, a wound formed. My parents put a dressing on it and it healed. At least, I thought so.
But months later the same wound reappeared. We treated it at home again, like the first time, but it didn’t heal. In fact it got bigger, but strangely it didn’t hurt.
We went to the hospital, where a nurse dressed the wound and prescribed antibiotics. After two weeks, a yellow layer formed above the wound. That was when the nurse mentioned ‘Atom’ [the local name for Buruli ulcer]. He told us to go to a traditional healer he knew.
MSF hadn’t arrived yet, and we all strongly believed that Buruli ulcer could not be treated with medicines. For us, it was a mystical disease. My family and I were convinced that people who were jealous of my success in sport had sent me the disease.
So we visited the traditional healer, and I stayed there for four long months. My wound did not heal. I did not know that in the meantime MSF had come to Akonolinga to treat Atom. But one of the Buruli Pavilion nurses, who knew my father, saw that I had the disease and persuaded us to come to the hospital.
When I arrived and saw the other patients, with much larger, much more painful sores than mine, even children with the disease, I thought that maybe I was in with a chance.
It began with dressings and injections. But it quickly became a question of surgery. They were talking about debridement, grafts, and I didn’t understand anything.
The first operation went smoothly, but when I went to have the dressing changed, I nearly fainted. The sore was even bigger. I went into surgery with a small wound, and had come out with a bigger one.
I was certain it wouldn’t heal, and that they would amputate my foot. I was convinced I would never walk again despite everything the nurses said. I didn’t believe them any more.
But hope returned. Yes, some ugly scars were forming, but nothing had been amputated, I could hope to use my foot as before, and my case was not the worst.
I continued my treatment and after a bit more than a year I was discharged. I was cured! We had known it was impossible in the hospital, but it had worked for me.
Sure, I’ve missed several years at school; I think I’ve done one class three or four times! But I have been cured.
Gradually I was able to walk again and one year after leaving hospital I was even able to run. Not as fast as before, admittedly, but I could run, and that was a victory for me.
Today I am preparing for my final exams in communication, and for my wedding!
I don’t go back to Akonolinga as often as I used to, but when I do, I don’t forget to go and say hello to the MSF team.