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MSF in Cameroon, 2012
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The north of Cameroon was affected by a measles epidemic at the beginning of the year and severe flooding at the end.
The people in the north are especially vulnerable to outbreaks of disease as the health infrastructure is so poor. After measles broke out, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) set up a dedicated unit in the hospital in Garoua, capital of North region. Most patients were under five years of age, and suffering from malnutrition and respiratory complications. At the end of April the unit was handed over to the Ministry of Health. Between March and April, MSF also delivered training to staff in 102 health facilities in 22 districts of North and Extreme North regions and donated measles treatment kits for some 1,835 patients.
People infected with Buruli ulcer develop sores that can cause irreversible deformities, which can restrict movement, and lead to secondary infections and long-term disability. The bacteria causing Buruli is related to leprosy but very little – not even the mode of transmission – is known about the disease.
The MSF team at the Buruli Pavilion inside the district hospital of Akonolinga carries out testing, treatment (with antibiotics and dressings), surgery and physiotherapy for patients suffering from this neglected disease. The staff also treat other chronic wounds and HIV in patients who are co-infected with Buruli and HIV, caring for around 100 people every year.
In Nylon district hospital and Soboum health centre in the city of Douala, MSF trained hospital staff and provided medicines and other supplies for the treatment of 5,000 HIV patients. MSF is increasing access to viral load testing – which is used to determine how patients are responding to treatment – by subsidizing the test. MSF also continues to advocate for more patients to receive the improved first-line treatment for HIV, based on the drug tenofovir.
Natasha, 24 years old, was admitted to the Buruli program in 2007. Five years later, she talks about her experience.
In 2000, I noticed I had a little spot on my left ankle. I thought it was a mosquito bite. Several days later, a wound formed. My parents put a dressing on it and it healed. But months later the same wound reappeared, and it didn’t heal. In fact it got bigger. I spent four long months with a traditional healer. My wound did not heal.
In the meantime, MSF arrived in Akonolinga. A nurse persuaded us to come to the hospital. The first operation went smoothly, but when I went to have the dressing changed, I nearly fainted. The sore was even bigger. I was certain it wouldn’t heal. I was convinced I would never walk again despite everything the nurses said.
But I continued my treatment and after a bit more than a year I was discharged. One year after leaving hospital I was even able to run again. Not as fast as before, admittedly, but I could run.
At the end of 2012, MSF had 96 staff in Cameroon. MSF started working in the country in 1984.