« The healthcare system in the Far North of Cameroon has been weakened »
Since May 2016, ALIMA has been supporting the Ministry of Public Health in the region. Doctor Moumouni Kinda, program manager for ALIMA, describes the medical needs in Cameroon’s Far North region.
What has been the impact of the conflict on the health system in the Far North?
When we arrived in May 2016, some health facilities had been abandoned. At the hospital in Makary, for example, some of the staff had fled and those who remained had no equipment to work with: there was no electricity, no cold-chain to store vaccines, very few beds, no stock of drugs, no referral mechanisms in the district, the laboratory was not functioning and there was no capacity for blood transfusion.
The number of patients at the hospital was also very low because people did not have the financial means to come for treatment.
What are the medical needs of people in northern Cameroon?
Amid the displaced population crisis, the health system in the Far North of Cameroon has been weakened. The conflict affects Nigerian refugees, as well as local populations, who are forced to move to more secure areas.
In the districts of Makary and Koza, near the Nigerian border, there are security risks, and it is dangerous for the population to move away from residential areas to go cultivate their land. Nearly 190,000 people in the Far North region had to leave their villages to seek refuge in safer communities. Others return to their village during periods of calm. But due to insecurity, some people can no longer access their fields and they find themselves deprived of their main source of livelihood.
Among children under the age of five, the rates of malnutrition exceed the World Health Organization’s (WHO) emergency thresholds. It is estimated that 2.2% of children suffer from severe acute malnutrition in Koza and Makary.
Malnourished children admitted to health facilities often develop complications because, before the arrival of ALIMA medical teams, there was no provision of care for severe acute malnutrition. More than half of the children treated suffer from acute respiratory infections or diarrhea.
What activities has ALIMA implemented to help the populations affected by the crisis?
ALIMA is supporting Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health within the health structures of three health districts: Mokolo, Koza and Makary. We support the intensive care of severe acute malnutrition at the hospitals in Mokolo, Koza and Makary and outpatient care in 21 peripheral health centers.
In concrete terms, this means that when we arrive in a clinic, we need to rehabilitate it, install electric generators, supply medicines and medical equipment, and take the time to train the nursing staff to improve their technical skills.
In addition to the displaced population crisis, we believe it is essential to help the Ministry of Public Health strengthen a weakened health system. We commit ourselves to supporting all health structures in the three districts, including clinics and referral hospitals, so that all the health personnel from the ministry are properly trained and mentored.
*Source: IOM-DTM, May 2017
ALIMA (The Alliance for International Medical Action) is a medical humanitarian organization that aims to provide assistance to populations during emergencies, such as epidemics, conflicts or natural disasters. Based in Dakar, Senegal, ALIMA has treated over 2 million patients in 12 countries since its creation in 2009, and launched 10 research projects focused on malnutrition, malaria and Ebola.
In Cameroon, ALIMA provides medical- and nutritional-care support to the Ministry of Public Health at health facilities in three districts: Mokolo, Koza and Makary. Since May 2016, nearly 4,900 children have been hospitalized in the three pediatrics wards and 4,500 children have been treated for malnutrition.
Photo : Adrienne Surprenant / ALIMA