While gun violence and human rights violations have grabbed headlines in recent years, the impact of this crisis on people’s basic medical needs has often been overlooked in the international media. However, according to the latest UN figures, the outbreak of violence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has caused more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, while more than 60,000 have fled to neighboring Nigeria. Today, the living conditions of the populations are massively affected by the crisis, and more than 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid in the North-West and South-West of Cameroon.
“Access to health services is a major concern in the North West and South West regions”, explains Lampaert. “Due to insecurity, closures, curfews and targeting of health facilities, access to health care is extremely limited, with at least one in five facilities not functioning.
“Displaced people hardly dare to go to health facilities, and the economic downturn has made it even more difficult to travel to the hospital, and even the cost of treatment,” says Lampaert. “Not surprisingly, mortality among vulnerable groups such as women and children has increased, and the suspension of our medical support has made the situation worse. “
While our teams have treated patients for rape, torture, burns and gunshots, the vast majority of patients have been people requiring medical assistance for childbirth, malaria or diarrhea, especially in displaced communities. Last year, community health workers supported by MSF carried out more than 150,000 consultations for communities in the two regions.
Insecurity and restriction of humanitarian space
The support provided by MSF and other humanitarian organizations has proved all the more vital as insecurity and attacks on staff have limited the number of organizations on the ground to provide vital services.
“We are one of the few medical organizations present in these two regions to respond to the emergency medical needs of people, in a very difficult context,” explains Lampaert. “Since we started our activities, our medical staff, volunteers and patients have regularly faced threats and violence from armed groups, both state and non-state, with very little respect for humanitarian principles. impartiality and neutrality.
“Our ambulances were shot and robbed, community health workers were sexually assaulted and murdered, armed men opened fire inside medical facilities, and our colleagues were threatened with dead, ”Lampaert said. “Despite these extremely difficult situations, our staff continued to provide care to those in need, day in and day out. “
In 2020, MSF teams in the North West region treated 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations, performed 3,272 surgeries and referred 4,407 ambulance patients, including more than 1,000 women in work. Community health volunteers provided 42,578 consultations, mainly for malaria, diarrhea and respiratory tract infections.
Present in many countries where government forces and non-state armed groups clash, MSF is committed to respecting our charter which requires the provision of health care without discrimination or with regard to political or religious affiliations, race or to sex.