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MSF in Cameroon, 2007
Field Staff: 123
Reason for Intervension:
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Patients received innovative treatment for Buruli, a debilitating disease, the cause of which is unknown. Medical and psychological care continued with HIV/AIDS patients, and assistance was provided to refugees fleeing civil war in Central Africa.
Buruli is an emerging and neglected disease in several western and central African countries. How people contract Buruli is unknown but it appears to develop in populations living close to rivers. It causes ulceration of the skin, primarily the arms and legs, and destruction of underlying tissue and bone. Untreated, it can lead to permanent disability and limb amputation.
There have been cases of Buruli in several provinces of Cameroon, with the populations of Ayos, Akonolinga and Mbalmayo particularly affected. Local rumor attributes the ‘mystical’ disease to a curse, leading people to seek treatment from faith healers, often with catastrophic results. Advanced Buruli requires surgery and physiotherapy.
Local rumor attributes the ‘mystical’ disease to a curse, leading people to seek treatment from faith healers, often with catastrophic results.
MSF’s Buruli project in Akonolinga provides medical and surgical care for those living in the district. Since 2002, some 600 patients have been cared for, 40 to 50 per cent of them aged under 15 years. MSF has also tried to raise awareness amongst the population about the disease and availability of treatment, with the result that patients now seek medical help sooner and receive antibiotic treatment before the disease progresses. MSF also conducts active screening and is focusing on a progressive decentralization of medical care to nurses in district health centers.
MSF is also undertaking innovative treatments in wound care that includes using a new range of dressings which should simplify the treatment and speed up the recovery process which, in turn, should reduce the chance of infection and complications.
Treating people with HIV/AIDS
In the Nylon district hospital at Douala, and through community facilities, MSF provides medical and psychosocial care to some 7,500 patients with HIV/AIDS, 3,100 of whom are following anti-retroviral treatment (ART). The Cameroon government now provides free treatment as part of a developing national program, although patients must still pay for HIV testing, follow-up consultations and laboratory tests. MSF has worked to simplify protocols to enable the progressive transfer of the Nylon project to Cameroon authorities. Effort is also being put into the education of families and communities to follow the full treatment program. At the D’joungoulo district hospital in Yaoundé, MSF also provides care for 800 patients with HIV, 525 of whom are following ART.
Feeding refugees from Central African Republic
By the end of 2007, a three-year-long civil war in neighboring Central African Republic led to the exodus of over 200,000 people. More than 60,000 took refuge at 59 sites along Cameroon’s eastern border, many without adequate food. MSF assisted refugees in the East and Adamaoua provinces, distributing 18 tonnes of supplementary food rations to 4,180 people. MSF also screened children for malnutrition and offered medical and nutritional care in collaboration with Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health for the most urgent cases.
MSF has worked in Cameroon since 2000.