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Home Births, A Risky Business

By Leocadia Bongben 

Justine Fege is 30, already has four children, and would have had more had she not lost two of them years ago. 

Justine delivered her last two children in her one-room plank house in the Tsinga Village neighborhood in Yaoundé 1, of the Center Region of Cameroon. All four of her children are home births in the capital city, Yaounde. She has never been to a hospital either for antenatal care or to give birth.

“I have a firm believe that my mother cooked the umbilical cord of the donkey and gave me, the reason I give birth alone to my children easily at home”, Fege says.  A Toupouri tribe in Far North Cameroon believes the Donkey is a stoic and courageous animal that gives birth easily, so they cook the umbilical cord so they can have the qualities they see in the Donkey. This theory has given Fege this false courage to have her kids at home. 

“When I start having labour pains, I arrange all I need, a razor blade and the baby’s clothes among other things besides me. I know once I start feeling the labour pains, it takes me a short time to deliver, ”Fege explains. 

Ignorant of the risk, Fege had heavy bleeding following the birth of her last child.

“When I gave birth to my last baby, I was bleeding profusely, I told my husband that this was not normal because, with my other babies, the bleeding was not heavy. He got a doctor who gave me an injection and drugs for the bleeding to reduce.”

But that was not the only problem.

“My eyes were turning and I fell when I was going to have my bath, was given hot water that revived me”, Fege narrates her ordeal after her last baby. Yet the mother of four has no intention of going to a health facility even if it were for free delivery now that she has developed the habit of giving birth alone to her children at home. 

Superstition-inspired home birth

According to the Cameroon 2018 DHS, one-third of births occur at home. And only 50 percent of births in rural areas take place in a health facility. Like many women who give birth at home, Fege is ignorant of the risks associated with home births or simply thinks some women are unlucky if they develop complications or die. 

Prof. Felix Essiben, Gynaecologist, Centre Region President of the Association of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon states that about 17 percent of women have septic deliveries.

He adds that women who give birth at home do so without any medical supervision and are said to have an unsafe delivery (septic delivery) which exposes them and their babies to many complications. “There is a risk of bleeding due to tears in the genital tract or uterine atony, pelvic infections can compromise subsequent pregnancies. Besides, they risk uterine rupture in the case of a large baby or a pelvis small for the weight of their baby and death if surgery is not performed quickly.”, Essiben states. 

Women risk obstetric fistulas (urine and feces oozing out of the vagina continuously) which can impact their future sexual and social life and for the rest of their lives.

Family planning 

Family planning seems to be a solution for women who do not have money for assisted births as they can plan not to have kids. “Childbirth takes 9 months to prepare. If you don’t have the money you don’t get pregnant. You use a method of contraception,” Prof Essiben advised. 

Fege has been thinking about family planning and knows the value of spacing or not having any more kids at the moment. She is making plans to go for a contraceptive method and desires to stop having any other children. “If I were to have my desire, these children are enough, but the decision is not mine to take as my husband will have a say’, Fege says.

Universal Health Coverage 

In the northern regions of the country, there is a health voucher, and even then childbirth is not free, it is paid for, at a lower cost. The health voucher is a system where a woman pays a sum of FCFA 6000 and is followed up in the hospital for up to 40 days postnatal. This has been a solution in the Northern part of the country, but the rest of the country relies on what Essiben calls, “social solidarity: families, friends. Some hospitals have a social service that works as well as it can.” 

Universal Health Coverage is another solution that may help women have assisted births. “Universal health coverage has just been launched and will cover childbirth,” Essiben states. However, it may take longer for women to actually start benefiting from the scheme.

This article was produced with the support of Sisterspeak237 and the Canadien Fund for Local Initiatives.

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Fai Collins Writing Own Dependable History In Lions’ Den

By Etienne Mainimo

His resilient effort in stopping opponents has greatly ameliorated, his crosses inside the opponents’ box, the reason he has bagged six assists since the start of AFCON 2021 on January 9.

Collins Ngoran Fai’s performance at the ongoing TotalEnergies Africa Cup of Nations, Cameroon 2021 is the talk on every lip. Just like in 2017 in Gabon, Fai Collins has made many see him as the solution to the Indomitable Lions’ right-back problem.

From households to the quarters, drinking spots and media space, the dependable Fai as he has been nicknamed has become household name.

Fai’s consistency in his performance especially in the ongoing AFCON has continued to improve from one match to another and has made many place their confidence in him.

Collins Fai is almost flawless on his right back, a performance that has been praised by the National Union of Footballers of Cameroon (SYNAFOC). “The right-back of the Indomitable Lions is impeccable since the beginning of the CAN.”

His battling and relentless presence at right-back provide a valuable outlet to get his team up the field at any given time. His calmness and the ever-smiling and serious face tell you of what he can do to save his team.

His resilient effort in stopping his opponent has greatly ameliorated, his crosses inside the opponents’ box the reason why he is currently hosting six assists to his credit since the AFCON nations began on January 9.

His good relays have imposed his presence during each game of the lions and definitely, he has become one of the preferred routes of the Indomitable Lions. He has proven that and is still proving worth.

The young defender born in Nso, Bui Division of the Northwest Region of Cameroon was first called up to join the Lions on October 11, 2015, against Nigeria in a friendly match.

He came in as a substitute at the 67th minute in place of his compatriot Sebastien Bassong and the match ended in a 3-0 defeat. He has also passed through the ranks of the U-21 and U-23 national selections.  

Before the stint with Romanian outfit Dinamo Bucarest, Fai had passed through the ranks of Bamenda FC football Academy before joining Union of Douala in 2011.

Going on to form a central part of the Union Sportive of Douala squad that won their first league title in 20 years, in 2012, Fai showed his bravery. His height hasn’t been a problem as he goes up high receiving all incoming balls, rights up and down his lane without being tired.

His lack of game time in the next season saw sold on loan out to Njalla Quan Sports Academy. In Limbe, Fai nailed down a regular starting spot and that is how his abilities soon caught the eyes of several European clubs.

Besides all of these, Collins Fai before leaving the country participated in the first edition of the Bui Sports Fans competition in 2007 where he was among the best defenders. He played for High Landers Football Club.

The Competition was a yearly tournament that was organized by Bui Strikers Veteran FC Yaounde to help promote sons and daughters of the division to greater heights in sports.

One of the fruits Fai is harvesting from his resilient and hard work is his recent contract agreeing to play for Saudi Arabia Club, Al-Tai FC.

In a Twitter message, the Belgian club said, “thank you, uncle”. His new club said, “congrats on qualifying for the semi-finals.”

The 29-year -old native of Nso from Kikaikom has been in the Belgian top tier side, Standard Liege since 2016. Fai made 162 appearances for the club scoring four goals and providing 22 assists. He also won the Belgian cup twice in 2016 and 2018.

Fai won the 2017 AFCON with the Cameroon team in Gabon. He started as a substitute in this competition but was able to impose himself in the second game against Guinea Bissau has remained a regular starter for the team.

The dependable Fai is the pride of all especially inhabitants from Nso land.

Vaccination in Yaounde

Cameroon Community Leaders Coax Population To Get Vaccinated

By Leocadia Bongben

Cameroon is targeting to get at least 13,944,491million of its population with Covid-19 jabs. But for now, only about 418,855 Cameroonians have been vaccinated. Even more, only 160,803 persons are fully vaccinated.

“A total of 3 percent of the target population has already received the first dose. And 1.2% of this same population is fully vaccinated. The proportion of health personnel vaccinated is 40.1% for the first dose and 18.1% for those fully vaccinated”, vaccination situation report of October 27.

Presently, 102,499 persons have had Covid-19 and 1686 deaths have been recorded as Cameroon grapples under the third wave of Covid-19.

In May, 2021, the World Health Assembly the world policy body set the target of 10 percent global vaccination by September, 30, 2021.

While 90 percent of high-income countries have hit the target, for Cameroon and other low-income countries, this target has not been met.

Low vaccination has been attributed to several factors, among them, the lack of information on side effects, fake news on side effects, religion, culture and government policies.

But according to the EPI, since the beginning of vaccination in April, there have been 501 minor side effects, 38 serious side effects out of the 472,156 vaccines administered. The most common side effects are headaches and pains on the injection spot.

According to Prof. Yap Boum, an Epidemiologist, “A study carried out in the ten regions of the country revealed that the people doubt the efficacy of vaccines, but vaccines are showing high efficacy for preventing deaths and hospitalization.”

Some reports have blamed low vaccination on the communication strategy which was neither validated nor implemented.

The gaps which initially drove low vaccination were the lack of involvement of the health personnel in the COVID-19 vaccination sensitization campaign.Besides, “sensitization campaign on COVID-19 vaccination is not adapted to the profiles of the hesitant population and their geographical location”, the United Nations Humanitarian Office, OCHA reported.


Another worry raised was about the two-dose vaccines not encouraging the population.

But, going by the Deputy Country Director of the Expanded Programme of Immunization, EPI, Andreas Njoh Ateke, over six months, many Cameroonians have been vaccinated with the two-dose AstraZeneca.

He added that other single-dose vaccines like the Johnson and Johnson are a plus making it easier for mobile teams to vaccinate the population with a single dose.

EPI Deputy Country Director, Andreas Njoh Ateke

Despite the low vaccination and gaps, there are regions in the country with high vaccination rates like the Far North, Center and East regions.

What has actually worked in these regions that other can emulate?

Community leaders luring the population to get vaccinated

It is 7:00am on a sunny Monday morning at the Djungolo neighbourhood in Yaounde, in the Centre region of Cameroon. Ekobo Isidore, president of Djungolo Health District Committee is applying the last stroke of the brush to polish his shoes and ready to move out for the day.

He is going to give a talk on the need for Covid-19 vaccination in an association that has accepted to him and his colleagues a listening ear. He also visits and talks to families, religious and traditional rulers among other groups in the community.

It is a door-to-door work that they do, and all the times, they talk with community members who in turn spread the message in their communities.

“We pass our prevention messages through religious leaders and local government officials who are trusted opinion leaders people listen more to them”, Ekobo stated.

Ekobo Isidore in discussion with community leaders on Covid-19 vaccination

“Traditional rulers call us from time to time to take vaccines to those they have convinced to get a jab”, Ekobo recounts how they have been able to convince traditional and religious leaders.

Ekobo says “We are mobilized to fight Covid-19. As a structure of dialogue and community participation, we are in charge of sensitizing the population, convincing them to take the Covid-19 vaccination and practice barrier measures”.

Community health agents, or social mobilisers, spend days convincing the population, to adhere to vaccination which is not easy with misinformation on social media, he added.

“We visit associations, during their meetings spend time, to discuss to know why they are against vaccination. We send messages to churches, and mosques. We also have advocacy and community engagement meetings where we invite traditional rulers, religious leaders, Divisional Officers, Influencers and mayors to discuss with them.We try to convince health workers who are reticent about vaccination”.

The head of state cannot bring something to kill all Cameroonians, who will he govern? We know government needs the population in good health, to work and pay taxes and if every-body is sick who will pay? That is why, government is putting enough means to prevent and ensure the health of the community, these are some issues we raise to convince them.

“I am vaccinated and I have not been transformed into a horse, and there is no 5g network in my body,”, i tell the population to convince them and stress that vaccine is free, efficient and enables us to prevent Covid-19, Ekobo stressed.

Ekobo Isidore, president of Djungolo Health District Committee president

Local leaders, working with over 2300 community mobilizers and 1450 vaccination teams, were crucial to the success of a rapid COVID-19 vaccination drive that saw 52 000 people vaccinated across Cameroon in just five days in July”, WHO states.

According to the EPI deputy boss, the role of the community leaders has been very important in getting the numbers.

“Regions where vaccination coverage is high like in the Far North, Centre and East regions, have actors who hold a lot in reinforcing community participation, and the use of local stakeholder to improve communication and adhesion. This has partly helped to get these regions to better performance than the other half of the country”, Ateke said.

“We think this is an effort which is being learnt by others regions and gradually all the regions are trying to improve.”, he added.

Region like the South and Southwest, bottom on the vaccination table have certainly have not leverage on the community leaders.

“For the Southwest region being the last on the table this is a major call for concern and effort out of campaign are explored. The frontline workers have been trying to vaccinate in groups of enterprises, but they are still at the bottom though in these last days they are vaccinating more persons. The insecurity in the region has really limited access to vaccination services”, Ateke said.

Community leaders have a lot of impact both in out of campaign and during vaccination campaigns to scale-up vaccination.

Ateke maintains that “Given that Covid-19 is a public health issue for which vaccination is one of the most effective ways to prevent this infectious disease, vaccination campaigns have proven to be a great way to get vaccine closer to the population and to rapidly improve vaccine uptake”.

“Campaigns can be an opportunity to rapidly improve vaccine uptake though they are relatively more costly than the routine vaccination intervention but they are more cost effective because they help to rapidly immunize a huge number of persons within a shorter period of time” the deputy EPI Boss said.

Cameroon had the first vaccination campaign on April 12, when the country received the first consignment of Covid-19 vaccines, Sinopharm from the Chinese government.

To kick-start the campaign, Health Minister Manaouda Malachie took the first jab (televised for all to see) but, at this stage, hesitancy seemed to be at the peak so may doubted public vaccination.

Health officials then launched the second vaccination campaign from 7-10 July to reach a larger number of people.  

During the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns in July, community leaders were major actors playing a determinate role in mobilizing the target population in their communities so they are really indispensable, Ateke thinks.

“We need to have the proper messengers, who are mostly the health workers, but also community leaders, for community engagement to move forward getting the vaccine and protecting population. If we have a large number of people who need hospitalization admission, it can be a challenge for the health system”, Yap stressed.

For the upcoming campaign from the November 17-21, every actor is key in improving vaccination so the health personnel- medical doctors, health workers are very vital and have been integrated in the communication group of actors, Ateke stated.

It is good to note that at the moment we have been able to vaccinated more than 30 percent of the health workers, they are being used to pass across messages to other health workers and to the population, he concluded.

This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab”

Bamoun King

Cameroon: Coping With The Third Wave Of Covid-19

By Leocadia Bongben

Thousands gathered; to hell with masks, there were hugs, hand shakes, no social distance; they were mourning.

It was the burial of the Sultan, Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya, the king of the Bomoun people of West region of Cameroon, and the enthronement of Nfonrifoum Mbombo Njoya Mouhamed Nabil, the 20th King.  

“It is an ideal avenue for the spread of covid-19 especially with the third wave and the Delta variant, which experts say spreads as fast as it kills”, Prof. Yap Boum II , Epidemiologist, lamented.

Cameroon is still experiencing its third wave of Covid-19.

Some African countries experienced the third wave of covid-19 earlier than others, amongst them, South Africa with the Delta variant.

South Africa, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Ethiopia account for over 60% of the continent’s caseload, the African Centre For Disease Control Director, John Nkengasong stated.

The World Health Organization, WHO, said the third wave, “could be 60% more contagious. Greater contagiousness means more cases, more hospitalizations, and a greater risk of overwhelming health systems. Some evidence also suggests that the Delta variant which is responsible for the third wave, is linked to more severe and longer-lasting cases”.

In Cameroon Health Minister Manaouda Malachie maintained that the country did not register any case for about three months before the surge in the new cases with the Delta variant at the origin.

“Malachie on national television maintained that genomic surveillance put in place detected out of 745 samples of positive cases analyzed, 43 were the English variant cases, 17 South African variant cases and 14 Indian Delta variant cases circulating in Cameroon.

“In October 2020, there were three variants in Cameroon, then in December eight, and there was a particular variant found in travelers that came from Central Africa. We learnt that the second wave of Covid-19 was caused by the South African strand, Prof. Wilfred Mbacham, Virologist said.

A report from the Cameroon Health Emergency Operations Centre indicate that the country recorded its first two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on 06 March 2020, the situation evolved rapidly and the first wave occurred around the period from 18 May to 05 July 2020, and the second wave appeared during the period from 22 February to 16 May 2021. Then the country observed a period of calm from June 2021.

“Since August 9, 2021 we have observed a rise in the number of cases. It is important to note the heterogeneity in the progression of cases with the central and coastal regions leading the way as expected. On the other hand, in this wave, regions such as the North West and the West have a much higher number of cases than in the last waves. A striking fact of this 3rd wave is the increase in the proportion of deaths, which has led us to intensify the death audits”, Belinga said.

According to Prof. Yap Boum, Epidemiologist, “This third wave, seems to be the worse, with the Delta variant.

Presently, 90 percent of the cases in the country are caused by the Delta variant that is highly transmissible, which means it may touch a large proportion of people who are vulnerable”.

Prof. Yap Boum II, Epidemiologist, Doctors Without Borders

To him, there is a difference between the first, second and third waves of Covid-19 in Cameroon.

“During the first wave, we didn’t know what was happening, we had very strict measures; the second wave was a bit more relaxed compared to the first with much more cases and deaths, with the peak around March and April”.

“In this third wave, we have even young people dying of Covid-19, kids of three months, three years and young adults. This was rare in the first and second waves, so there is need to readjust the measures we are taking”, Boum said.

The fact is that when you have ten persons hospitalized, nine out of the ten have not been vaccinated. 90 percent of the people dying are those who are not vaccinated, Yap stressed.

He warned that having taken a jab and still being hospitalized can happen for many reasons: such cases may have other conditions. We now know that people with HIV are immune depressed and responding less. So, the need for vaccine boasters.

The challenge with the third wave of Covid-19, is how to get the population to respect barrier measures, wear masks, wash hands regularly, and get vaccinated.

So far, Cameroon has confirmed 98,402 cases since the first case was declared in 2020 till date. The cases, and deaths correspond to the three waves of Covid-19.

Only 142,778(1.0%) Cameroonians are fully vaccinated and 397,607 have taken the first dose as of October 11.

Experts agree that were Cameroon to have more hospitalizations, the hospitals would be overwhelmed with the low level of vaccination.

Mbacham, maintains that “those who have taken just a shot of a two doses of the vaccines are as vulnerable as those who have not had a jab”.

What preventive measures for third wave?

Cameroon Health Emergency Operation Centre, is in charge of monitoring and taking record of the covid situation in the country on a daily basis.

Cameroon Emergency Operations Centre

Dr Belinga of the Emergency Health Emergency Operations Centre maintained that “At land, sea and air entry points, passengers are systematically screened and tested whether or not they have a negative test less than 72 hours old, as required by the regulations in force in Cameroon.

In the community, contacts of confirmed cases of COVID-19 are identified and followed up over a period of 14 days to look for the early appearance of signs of the disease.

Finally, there is surveillance in health facilities through triage systems set up at the entrance to the health facilities, active research in consultation registers and systematic screening of suspected cases, Belinga added.

Surveillance is part of a strategy based on awareness-raising and case detection. Vaccination is offered to people who test negative, while positive cases are managed.

In the run-up to the TotalEnergies 2021 African Cup of Nations football tournament, surveillance will be stepped up, particularly with “new Covid-19 exposure notification tools that will enable people who have been in contact with a positive case to receive notification leading to screening and then vaccination or treatment depending on the result”,Belinga revealed.

The third vaccination campaign is set from November 17-21 postponed from October 27-30 would cost the state a whooping FCFA 928 million to scale up vaccination.

Meanwhile, Cameroon can count on the support of its partners in coping with the third wave. Cameroon’s partners, the EU and Germany donated equipment for the management and protection of severe cases. 

Germany donated 924,000 surgical masks worth more than 165 million and the EU, 50 oxygen concentrators, 50,000 surgical masks, 03 ventilators with accessories, 3,040 protective glasses and 3,120 visors.

The EU has in the past, constructed waste treatment areas in 18 health facilities in five regions, in addition to the commissioning of a borehole.

Saudi Arabia donated, 25,000 sterilized blouses, 125,000non sterilized, 2.302000 surgical masks to help government to meet up with increasing cases of Covid=19 from the delta variant.

Cameroon has got her very first sequencing device for monitoring the circulation of Covid-19 variants through CEMAC. The African Development Bank, ADB, financed to the tune of FCFA 468,501,777 a subregional response plan that provided biomedical equipment, protection kits, medical ambulance, the ministry of health disclosed.

A group of Cameroonian pathogen-genomics are following up the evolution  of the virus, to understand the virulence in collaboration with Redeemers University in Nigeria, Mbacham disclosed. 

Prof. Mbacham Wilfred, Virologist

Africa and Cameroon have not had the massive deaths predicted and according to Mbacham, “It could be that our foods are contributing besides the washing of hands, social distancing”.

In the past, viral infections have gone through four waves before they completely get out of the community. With many passages of the virus through many people and mutating, it will slowly tend towards a less virulent strand like the common colds, Mbacham concluded.

This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab”

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How Local Remedies Fuel Covid-19 Vaccine Hesitancy In Cameroon

By Leocadia Bongben

Not without our herbs’, has been the protective shield some Cameroonians and Africans wear to stay off vaccines.

Flash back to May 2020, two months after Cameroon declared its first case of Covid-19 on March 6, Achille Kohler Chountsa Fongang, Journalist in his 50s, lost appetite and sense of taste.

The result of a scan test by Dr. Euloge Yiagnigni Mfopou showed Chountsa tested positive of Covid-19.

“A table was placed in front of the door to my room, food kept there.  For the first time in my life, I was deprived of my liberty”, he narrated his Covid-19 experience.

“I was given CoroCur, after three days, the symptoms disappeared and I had appetite anew but had to remain quarantined for ten days”, he added.  

Chountsa was one of the early Covid-19 patients on whom the researcher tested his herbal remedy CoroCur, taken with anti-biotics.

“When I got well, I shared my story on Facebook, my phone rang continuously, I oriented many to the doctor and they came back thanking me”.

“I have not taken a jab and have no intention of taking. I think it is good to have confidence in our researchers, and if we are sick the remedy is available”, Chountsa said.

Achille Kohler Chountsa Fongang

Personally, the vaccine doesn’t convince me. It took 10-15 years of research to produce most vaccines, so I am surprised how the Covid-19 vaccines were gotten so fast, he voiced his doubts.

“We have seen many who took the required doses of vaccines, and died again of Covid-19 because they didn’t understand that the symptoms they get are real until they got worse”, he added.

Chountsa is not alone in trusting local remedies.

Francis Nguefack, 48, father of four, sitting on a bench, watching Basketball, confidently says, “I will prefer to take Archbishop Samuel Kleda’s remedy, (Adask Covid and Elixir Covid), if I am tested positive of Covid-19”.

“I cannot go for vaccination and this is final”, the public official, Nguefack adds.

The rush for herbal cure

In April 2020, Archbishop Samuel Kleda, of the Douala Metropolitan Diocese announced he had found a herbal remedy for the treatment of Covid-19. The Bishop is known for treating patients with herbal remedies for over 30 years.

Kleda’s announcement came at the same time Madagascar and their President, Andry Rajoelina was publicly distributing their unproven local remedy for the treatment of Coronavirus.

Other African countries have been falling back on their local pharmacopeia.

The World Health Organization, WHO warned that the remedies had to go through screening, cautioned over misinformation around the remedies that could give people a false sense of security.

However, WHO “Welcomed innovations around the world including repurposing drugs, traditional medicines and developing new therapies in the search for potential treatments for COVID-19”.

The African Centre for Disease Prevention on its part cautioned on the need for efficiency and efficacy.

“It is important to evaluate both the safety and efficacy of these indigenous botanical assets in medicine prior to endorsing their use by the medical community and the public”, CDC stated.

President Biya’s in a message urged officials to look for a local solutions to Covid-19 treatment, then, the health ministry involved traditional doctors, testing their claims.

Authorities approved seven herbal remedies

Cameroon Ministry of Health, Manoauda Malachie on July 8 in a release said after due process, the medical council authorized five remedies as adjutants.

These are CoroCur, Adask Covid, Elixir Covid, Palubek’s and Soudicov, a kit of : Ngul Be Tara, Netko, Binther et Immunoboost and a kit of Pack Viro Green Force 4.

Ngul Be Tara, one of the seven authorized remedies

“The remedies were to be used in association with the standard protocol for the treatment of Covid-19”, Dr. Salihou Sadou, director of pharmacy at the ministry of health stated.

Sadou says the remedies fall in category 2, and are not the conventional medicine.

There are different categories of remedies, and category 2 are products that have undergone phytochemical test, to identify the different herbs used and toxicology to ensure that the plant is not toxic.

Sadou explains the remedies fall under what is called long usage, in a community, to show the efficacy.

In a conventional drug efficacy is proven by clinical effects where mechanism of action is seen, how the product reacts in a particular domain, how it is transformed and extracted.

To arrive at the third category, there is need for clinical trials. “We encouraged the herbalist to adhere to clinical trials, to get to the third category of a conventional drugs. There is a disposition for the clinical trial at the ministry of health ethical committee.

Director of Pharmacy at the Ministry Of Health, Dr, Salihou Sadou

“The remedies cannot replace vaccination, and nothing guarantees protection against Covid-19 like the vaccines, the remedies are used when the person is already tested positive” he stressed.

What we are telling the population is to get the jab, he emphasized.

Statistics of people these promoters claim to have treat of Covid-19 cannot be very viable, because to follow-up a patient is complicated. The patient goes from from one product to the other and my be treated by one in many, Sadou argued.

We also know that there is need to encourage traditional medicine, many people go for traditional remedies and have much confidence in them but they cannot replace vaccines, he attested.

One of the approved drugs is CoroCur which the owner Dr. Euloge Yiagnigni Mfopou , Cardiologist, says is a native treatment made from local herbs.

“Corocur has been identified as anti-viral immuno-modulator and anti -oxidants. These properties help to kill the virus”, Mfopou says.

“Going by him, “It is the first time a medical doctor conducts research whose results are accepted by the community”.

He explains that the authorisation as ‘adjuvant treatment’ means the remedy has to be associated with the conventional treatment- composed of anti-biotics, Zinc, Vitamin C and Epherallgan to lower the fever.

To him, the conventional treatment is not anti-viral but it helps the body to block other pathogenic agents which can emerge when immunity decreases.

“When a person is tested positive of Covid-19, there is decreased immunity and this state can lead to increased multiplication of other bacteria”, Mfopou explains.

He claims that 3000 people were cured with CoroCur from the research stage which took about a year to the approval stage.

Presently 4000 bottles of CoroCur have been produced, and are in pharmacies and clinics for the next three years according to health authority’ s prescription.

Cameroonians are also taking other remedies and go for fever grass, ginger and other herbs just to help their system.

As to how the local remedies are fuelling hesitancy, Dr Euloge said:

“Many people come asking to take CoroCur saying they prefer it to vaccines, but as a medical doctor, I tell them prevention is better than cure. They should take the vaccine first”, he emphasizes.

He adds, “CoroCur is for those who are sick or have come in contact with sick people”.

The doctor advises, “If you have been in contact with a positive person, before you go for test, start taking CoroCur and it wash out the virus”.

To him, the impact of the information from European countries following the effects of the vaccines was one of the numerous reasons for vaccine hesitancy at the beginning.

Other reasons for vaccination hesitancy

Vaccination hesitancy generally has been a huge issue in Africa. Many countries in Africa do not have sufficient vaccines as suggested in a World Bank article on what is driving hesitancy in sub-Saharan Africa”.

“The slow vaccine rollout on the continent is  due to supply constraints, structural issues, and logistical barriers”, Prata Menezes et al suggest.

But hesitancy in Cameroon goes beyond lack of vaccines. Cameroon got a total of 1,052,650 doses of vaccines. As of October 5, 388,511 persons had taken a dose of the vaccines with only 133,531 completely vaccinated according to Expanded Immunization Programme, EPI.

Hesitancy is depicted with the 4880 doses of AstraZenca that got expired in Cameroon.

“4880 doses of Astra Zeneca vaccine that expired on 23 August 2021 have been withdrawn from the Covid-19 vaccine stock. This gives a loss rate of 1.2% for expired closed vials”, EPI  revealed in a release.

Besides herbal remedies fueling hesitancy, other reasons have been advanced for their contribution to hesitancy.

In Cameroon the fact that there is little or no information on the side effects of the Covid-19 vaccines seems to be a huge driver of hesitancy. Fake news, religion, culture and geographical barriers are other reasons for not taking a jab.

“This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l’Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab”

Catherine jpg

Safe Abortion Chained In Cameroon

Cameroon joins the rest of the world to mark the International Safe Abortion Day, an annual day to support action for safe abortion instituted in Latin American in 1990 and around the world in 2011. This year the call is for governments to remove laws and policies restricting access to safe abortion.

The International Safe Abortion Day celebrated this September 28, gives women the world over the right to ‘safe abortion’.

Safe abortion is the termination of pregnancy before 28 weeks of gestation under adequate conditions by qualified personnel and under good hygienic conditions.  

But for Catherine, 20, this right was denied with the cumbersome procedure of obtaining legal abortion in Cameroon.

Raped as she ran for her life in Fontem-Southwest region of Cameroon, within the context of the Anglophone crisis, Catherine would have loved to have a legal abortion.

She abandoned the process long procedure and is now a mother of baby boy from the rape incident.

Tears rolling down her cheeks, dripping on the innocent baby, still wishing to go back to school, she asks, “what will she do with the baby”.

Rape in section 339 of the penal code is one of the cases where safe abortion is authorized in Cameroon, besides threats to the life of a mother.

Why is safe abortion chained in Cameroon?

Stakeholders agree that to obtain this legal service in Cameroon is a long and cumbersome process which discourages victims of rape.

Dr Filbert Eko Eko, Reproductive health expert, a member of the Society of Gynaecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon, SOGOC, laments that the long and cumbersome procedure encourages back street abortion as victims seek the easy way from unqualified doctors.

Dr Filbert Eko Eko

Through out the world, each year, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur, which is 45% of all abortions.

At least 22,800 people die each year from complications of unsafe abortion.

Maternal deaths in Cameroon was pegged at 732 per 100,000 live births in 2002. Though with a 40 percent reduction to 406 deaths per 100,000 live births, Cameroon is yet to attained the desired 70 deaths per 100,000 live births health experts say.

Statistics from SOGOC indicate that 30% of maternal deaths in Cameroon are linked to unsafe abortions. Eko, following the right procedure, advises, “A girl who is raped should go immediately to a hospital without changing her dress or taking a bath for proper care”.

The survivor will then get medication that can prevent pregnancy and other infections such as HIV, Hepatitis and this must be within 72 hours it may be late if they drag on.

But, he regrets that the healthcare provider is not the sole person responsible to diagnose rape. The health care provider presents the medical findings and elaborates a medico legal certificate.

Barrister Joyce Chefu that , “legal abortion is complicated, long and cumbersome as the court needs to establish that a survivor was raped and a court judgment delivered to attest rape. It is the judgment which authorizes the medical professional to carry out an abortion”.

Barrister Joyce Chefu

“A normal criminal day is long, cases are adjourned within a month and most cases not heard. A normal file can take three months to have a decision rendered in a local setting and more where the are many litigations but in town it may take six months”, Chefu says.

After hospital, the survivor should lodge a complaint with the police. If known , a convocation is sent to the suspect, investigations are carried out with evidence which is the medical certificate, and the case sent to court.

“It is a procedure and which we are obliged to follow given that everyone is considered innocent until proven guilty”, Chefu adds.

Though the penal code in article 339 talks about serving the life of a mother, it does not cover the fact that the life of the baby can also be in danger, she regrets.

In Cameroon international treaties and conventions ratified have a higher authority over national laws, article 14 sub section c of the Maputo protocol provides the right to choose any method of contraception, but this is contradictory with national laws.

She admires countries where rape cases are treated as emergency, saying, “if we and treat rape as emergency and make the law on rape harder, this will help”.  

The legal expert suggests that policy makers need to help the law, to better people’s lives.

In order to break the chain around safe abortion in Cameroon, “SOGOC, is working on establishing a referral pathway for the management of pregnancies emanating from rape and incest with different stakeholders; the Ministry of Justice, the police, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family among others”, Eko stated

SOGOC is running an Advocacy for Comprehensive Abortion Care, ACAC and  mentoring for material and reproductive health whose goal is to provide an enabling environment for increased safe abortion services within the ambits of the Cameroon law in a bid to reduce maternal deaths related to unsafe abortions.

Eko advises that every third category hospital should have an adolescent clinic which is very vital for young people to get information on reproductive and sexual health rights and where they can exposed their problems to their peers.

For now what exists in most hospitals are family planning units not responding to the specific need of youths who are the most exposed to unsafe abortions.

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Bring Back ‘Ngonnso’: Not Just A Figurine, An Identity

Like a voice crying in the wilderness, the Nso dynasty over the years seems be crying for the return of Ngonnso.

Tagged-III15017, the figurine of Yaa Ngonnso believed to be restless at the Ethnological Museum in Dahlem, Berlin Germany, exhibited this September 22 at the Von Humboldt Center.

“The statuette is being displayed to a people who know nothing about her origin”, Fon Kong laments.

Many a Nso people like Fon Kong seem to believe that the calamity, turmoil and turbulence that is befalling the Nso clan is intricately woven around the absence of their spiritual mother.

The exhibition is happening at a time the #BringBackNgonnso campaign is on its rails, now placed under NsoFirst-NSODA Organization Leadership called NSODA Culture Renaissance Initiative NCRI.

Sylvie Njobati, the face behind the campaign and coordinator of the Nso First-NSODA Organization Leadership Team, has taken the message of Royal Highness the Fon of Nso, Sehm Mbinglo II to the owner of the foundation keeping the statuette in Germany.

Art depicting Ngonnso by Mfikela Jean Samuel, displayed in Germany

In its physical form, “Ngonnso is a sculpture carved in wood wearing magnificent earrings and an African hairdo, holding a bowl on her laps and resting on four supports fitted to a round stand. It is decorated with cowries from neck to stand depicting wealth and royalty”, describes Prof. Fanso Verkijika.

But, to the Nso people, Ngonnso is more than a figurine, it is an umbilical cord that links the Nso dynasty to their ancestors, an identity.

The spiritual mother-Ngonnso is the foundress of the Nso dynasty epitomized by the statuette, which now sits in a German museum.

“Our plight as a people goes beyond what to the Germans could be money or a show of colonial conquest. Our plight is identity crisis, disconnection from the essence of our being, hoarding of our freedom”, Njobati states.

A dive down history lane with Professor Fanso, reveals that Ngonnso, the princess of Tikar in the Adamawa region had two brothers, Nchare-yen and Mfombam who left the palace following a feud over succession in 1394.

The siblings separated, Ngonnso founded the Nso dynasty and since tradition forbade her from ruling, her husband became king and she the Queen Mother.

So when she passed no to glory, the figurine was made in honour of the powerful woman, Yaa Ngonnso.

On how the statuette left Nso to Germany, there are pointers that, it was looted by Germans and the Nso palace was set ablaze.

But, another theory has it that, it was gifted to the Germans not stolen, Fanso quotes a researcher Anne Splettstoesser with information from the curator at the Berlin Museum.

Stories of looted Artefacts from Africa during the colonial period and how some have been restituted abound.

When the Afoua Kom that vanished in 1966, was returned to the Kom people in the Northwest region from the New York Gallery in 1973, this sparkled hopes that Ngonnso could be returned.

Several sons and daughter of the Nso dynasty have been making efforts to bring back Ngonnso.

One of them, Prof Fanso says from 1970 under the Sehm Mbinglo 1, Nso people nurtured the desire to have Ngonnso back. The Fon wrote a letter which depicted the yearnings of a people for the return Ngonnso to its origin.

Gad Shiynyuy who discovered the figurine is said to have spearheaded the initiative to bring back Ngonnso.

Many more have chipped in their pieces for the return of the statuette alongside the Nso Development and Cultural Association, NSODA.

Ngonnso among other art works

Where would the Ngonnoso be displayed when restituted?

Fanso maintains that a museum idea came up in 2013 with Alison Roth, an American, for the construction of the Nso Arts and Cultural Centre, with provision for museum, performance space and the renovation of the entire palace.

But, the crisis which started in 2016 slowed the project and disrupted the visit of German researchers.

In 2019, the Germans tried to organize restitution generally under ‘the concept on the establishment and organization of a German contact point for collections from colonial context’.

This concept established a contact point, procedure, guidelines, legal framework and other for the restitution from colonial context.

But why after so many years restitution remains an illusion?

According to Fanso, three reasons account for the delay in returning Ngonnso: the ongoing renovation of the palace, the provision of a befitting place for Ngonnso and other Artefacts and the end of the Anglophone crisis.

Vaccination in Yaounde

How Poor Access, Storage; Slow Covid-19 Vaccination In Cameroon Crisis Regions

By Leocadia Bongben

The two Anglophone regions are among the bottom four regions where the COVID-19 vaccination rate is still very low.

Mary Wirdin, 35, mother of two, and primary school teacher, set out to take a jab of the COVID-19 vaccine, but after trekking for 10k from Wahsi to the Jakiri Health Centre, she could not get the vaccine. 

It is Friday, August 13, Bamenda Northwest Cameroon, and roads leading into the regional capital are blocked.

“I wanted the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but could not get it, I was told due to roadblocks, vaccines have not been sent to the district hospital, so, I have to wait”, Wirdin, said. 

It is not the first time roads have been blocked, but a constant phenomenon since 2017 when the Northwest and Southwest regions turned into an armed conflict till date. 

With the roadblocks around major towns, Bafut, Bali, Kom, Wum, Banso, and Ndop, general access to healthcare is problematic.

Patients have pushed trucks to the Bingo Baptist Hospital. access to the Banso Baptist and Shisong hospitals, some of the reputable hospitals is blocked.

There has not been a movement of vehicles, hence, not much activity concerning COVID-19 vaccination.

Dr. Cornelius Chebo, Chief of the Northwest regional Covid-19 Incident Command Centre says with the roadblocks there is nothing much they can do but wait till when the roads are opened. 

Cameroon has received more than 1,204,300 vaccines, 200,000 doses of Sinopharm, 300,091 doses of AstraZeneca, 303,050 doses of Johnson &Johnson, and 158,400 doses from ECA -Afriximbank. 

According to Dr. Chebo, the format or line of vaccines in the country is the same for COVID-19 since their integration into the Expanded Programme of Immunization, EPI. 

“Vaccines are delivered in the central pool and taken from Bafoussam in the West region by the Covid-19 incident command center in Bamenda”. 

COVID-19 vaccine cold room at the Northwest Regional Delegation of Health

After collection, the vaccines are registered and distributed according to requests from the districts. 

The chiefs of district health centers then collect for their units and down to the population. 

The challenges

In the region, it is very challenging to transport and stock vaccines, because the distance has increased drastically for some districts due to the crisis. 

For example, officials from Donga Mantung Division used to pass through Kumbo but the road is no longer accessible. They have to go through Magbwa in the Adamawa before they get to Ndu, Nwa, and Ako, Chebo explained. 

In other areas, the Ndop, Fundong, Bali, and Kumbo roads are blocked and vaccines cannot go as armed groups imposed recent roadblocks.

“There is a need to wait until the roads are opened for the vaccines to reach the areas and this slows the vaccination process”, Chebo says.

According to Chebo, the transport fare that used to be FCFA 2500 is now 10,000 from Kumbo to Nkambe. A Nkambe man who used to pay FCFA 5,000 now pays FCFA 25,000. 

Ako-Nkambe used to be FCFA 4000 and today the distance is paid at FCFA 10,000, he laments. 

The district hospitals have been paying more to transport the vaccines. It has been tough but the goodwill of the managers at the district level has been overwhelming- they incur charges but they still take the vaccines, Chebo stated. 

Dr Cornelius Chebo, Head of Northwest Regional Covid-19 Incident Command Unit

80 vaccines destroyed

To scale up vaccination, following hesitancy, Cameroon organized the national vaccination days from 7-14 July. 

During the campaign, some vaccines were seized and destroyed in Kumbo East, Batibo, and Bafut. According to Chebo, “80 vaccines were intercepted and destroyed”.

But, this has not only happened to COVID-19 vaccines but with other vaccines within the context of the ongoing crisis, he added.

Electricity pools destroyed 

In some parts of the Northwest region, armed groups destroyed the electricity grid lines and even in Bamenda there has been constant outage with the central cold room, not an exception, Chebo said. 

“We used to stay here more than 10 hours without electricity, and it was difficult to respect the 8 degrees Celsius to store vaccines.

“Once the cold room reaches 10 degrees Celsius, it signals. When the outage has lasted for more than ten hours, it is not a good sign when keeping vaccines”, he stressed.

The challenge was more in April 2021, with more than eight signals a month, which meant we were out of electricity for more than ten hours, he adds. 

Standby generator to serve when there is no electricity

To salvage the situation, health authorities brought in a generator and have been supplying fuel. 

“But the challenge still lingers in some districts, and they had to resort to using fuel-powered generators too,” Chebo explained.

“Nkambe has not seen electricity for more than a year; Wum has also had no electricity for about two years and now runs their cold chains on solar or fuel.

However, the good thing is that the districts are looking for ways to overcome the challenges. “Most health facilities in Fundong, Ndop, and Nkambe are using solar energy to maintain their cold chains, a recommendable effort, Chebo said.

Regrettably, Batibo has solar fridges, but the panels were vandalized within the context of the ongoing crisis.

“If the facilities are not in a secure zone, there is a risk of them being vandalized,” Chebo maintained.

Despite the challenges in the Northwest region as of June 8, 2021, statistics from EPI were in the fourth position in the overall vaccination table. Presently, the Northwest has vaccinated more than 12664 people.

Data from the Northwest COVID-19 Incident Command Center shows that some of the areas where vaccines were destroyed have low vaccination rates, except Kumbo East.

The bigger challenge, however, is that many people in the Southwest region are reticent about taking a jab and prefer to take their local herbs.

The situation is not different in the Southwest region where access and storage remain a major hindrance to vaccination, especially in remote areas.

“I don’t think I will take the vaccine if I am not forced, I rather go for local herbs”, Njie Lyonga John-Paul, a resident of Bokova, in Buea in the Southwest region, stated.

Cameroon vaccinated 400,000 persons on August 14, according to a tweet from the Minister of Health, Dr. Manaouda Malachie.

However the latest information from the Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI, shows the total number of persons vaccinated by region.

The crisis hit Northwest and Southwest regions are among the bottom four least vaccinated of the Cameroon ten regions. The ongoing conflict may in part, have contributed to the slow vaccination. However, the South region is the region with the least vaccinated population.

"This OUTBREAK story was supported by Code for Africa’s WanaData program as part of the Data4COVID19 Africa Challenge hosted by l'Agence française de développement (AFD), Expertise France, and The GovLab"

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See Why The Projector Is On Bernard Wirsiy Bongkisheri

A Young Cameroonian Theatre Director is making waves at the international scene – A cross border theatre project during the covid-19 pandemic

Bernard Wirsiy Bongkisheri has gradually and steadily become a household name in Cameroon and the International community when it comes to Theatre and Film production. He has a background in Theatre and Film from the University of Yaounde1 and from the University of Wits in Johannesburg, South Africa. One hardly can decipher from his looks the potentials he possesses but his artistic prowess stands as tall as the tower of Babylon. Uncle B, as he is known in the arts world, is founder and Coordinator of the Rainbow Interactive Association, a prolific arts production house based in Yaoundé. He is a mentor and coach to a great number of youths who are passionate for film and theatre, reason why he is Managing Director and Producer of Gold Arts.

The Hektomeron Project 2021 did not miss out on this talent.  Uncle B was selected among the 100 Theatre Directors worldwide for the production of 100 theatre performances. The play Drowned by the Noise of Others was scripted and rehearsed for 8 days through the zoom platform and was performed in Romania on the 29th of January 2021. Cameroon Factfinder caught up with him his experience.

Cameroon Factfinder Mr. Wirsiy Bernard, thank you for talking to Cameroon Factfinder, We are aware of your participation in the Hektomeron Project. Can you tell us how you became a part of this prestigious Romanian project knowing fully well that you are so young and that there are great names in Cameroon theatre?

Wirsiy Bernard: It gladdens my heart to hear that you are aware of this humble stride I made this 2021. To be very candid with you, age and name are not what it takes to be creative or get recognition. Although a young theatre director, I have been prolific in producing performances of high repute. I am a writer, actor and director with a good training background and having gained a lot of experiences from my participation in national and international performances. It is said that the Goldfish has no hiding place. This is how those in charge of the Hektomeron project fished me out from a multitude of names and I gave them one of the best performances in the Hektomeron Project

How comfortable were you in scripting and directing a play through the Zoom platform?

The challenge was enormous. I had to develop a script within two days, run the rehearsals for 6 days with a crew that spoke only Romania and more importantly communicating with my cast and crew through Zoom. Other challenges came from the power outages and the unstable internet connection and more over, my actor, Stefan Cepoi, wasn’t versed with performing a solo piece. I had to conceive a lot of tactics to get him into the game. I believed in my ability to handle all these and the organizers of the Hektomeron project knew and believed I was up to the task.   

What prospects do you have for the Cameroonian Theatre?

As a matter of fact, Cameroonian theatre is now living on its past glories. No theatre halls, no production equipment and worse of all, not even a professional theatre troupe. The National theatre troupe that existed in the yesteryears died a natural death and its resurrection seems unattainable. You talked about big names existing in Cameroon theatre, those are the people who enjoyed this noble art long ago and are exercising the last kicks of a dying horse. The youths of nowadays do not see any gain in practicing this art that has been neglected and almost dead.

How beneficial is Theatre art to the society?

I would like to remind us that theatre is beneficial not only to those who create performances but also to those who experience those theatre creations. Great works of art inspire, and the process of art making can do the same. Theatre is therefore a means by which people reflect on their current situation, define and re-invent themselves and their social world. The few of us who still believe and practice the art are always ready to pick up any contract from NGOs, government ministries, etc to sensitize, educate or create awareness on any subject that can bring about development in our dear fatherland.

How can an enabling environment be creating to bring back the theatre art in Cameroon?

I believe if we have an enabling environment as well as better equip theatre spaces like in other countries, the culture of theatre would have been resurrected and the youths would find it lucrative and self-satisfying taking the relay batten from the aging theatre practitioners. I believe the government is better placed through the ministry of Arts and Culture to salvage this situation.

Interviewed by Etienne Mainimo Mengnjo

Other

Understanding The Babadjou-Bamenda Road Saga

By Kini Nsom

Pundits are wondering if there is a deliberate attempt to cut off the Northwest from the rest of the country.

The Babadjou-Bamenda road which observers describe as a byword of neglect, is part of what was referred to in 2010 as part of the Bafoussam-Bamenda road project.

The contract to construct the road was awarded to the French company, RAZEL. RAZEL constructed the road from Bafoussam to Babadjou in Bamboutous Division of the West Region.

As soon as RAZEL got to Babadjou, it declared that it could not continue with project because what was left of the money allocated to the project, was only FCFA 1.9 billion. The company said such a paltry amount was too small to enable them continue with the project.

In a bid to solve this pecuniary equation, RAZEL wrote to the Cameroon government, proposing that funding could be sought from a French Bank.

In reaction, the then Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, asked for advice from the Minister of Public Works. According to inside sources, government finally rejected the RAZEL proposal on claims that the interest rates of the French bank in question were too high.

Government finally resolved that the remaining FCFA 1.9 billion be used for maintenance of the Babadjou-Bamenda stretch as the state searched for funds to construct the road. RAZEL finally left.

The maintenance works were carried out by two Cameroonian enterprises, MAG and EDGE up to 2017. Government later signed a loan agreement with World Bank to finance the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road.

According to government prescriptions, the 35-kilometre stretch from Babadjou to the gateway to Bamenda where there is a billboard with the inscription: “Welcome To Bamenda”, was going to be constructed as modern highway.

From there, there was going to be the construction of a double carriage way (between 19 metres to 30 metres wide in some sections). This double carriage way has to pass through Government Bilingual High School, GBHS, Mendakwe, the new Governor’s residence, the Chantal Biya Foundation, Hot spot and Amour Mezam junction along the new road.

The dual carriage way will continue through the Bayelle junction at Mile 2 Nkwen, Mobile Nkwen, Finance junction, Ngen Junction, Veterinary junction, Sonac Street, City Chemist Round-About, Metta Quarters, T-juctison, Ayaba Street and Veterinary junction.

The Babadjou-Bamenda road project was estimated to cost a circa FCFA 55 billion. Given that RAZEL had quit the project, the contract for construction of the road was awarded to another French company, SOGEA-SATOM.

The project was launched in a solemn ceremony in Santa, Mezam Division in the Northwest Region in September 2017. The Minister of Public Works, Emmanuel Nganou Djoumessi, who chaired the ceremony, said the road construction would go on as planned.

Almost all the property which was earmarked for destruction in order to construct the road, had already been paid off by 2018.

SOGEA-SATOM started work, but eventually stopped due to the burning of their equipment, including five trucks by unidentified armed men in Akum in 2018.

The Minister of Public Works, Factfinder learnt, repeatedly, requested the company to continue work from Babadjou to the gateway to the Northwest Region at Matazem which is 17 kilometres. The company seemingly did not yield to the Minister’s pressure.

It is mooted that it was pressure from the Presidency of the Republic that caused the company to start work on the stretch during the rainy season last year.

Not much work was done since SATOM abandoned the contract as far back as January 14 this year. Going by government sources, the company is asking the state of Cameroon to pay them a sum of FCFA 2 billion as the collateral damages they incurred following the burning of their equipment at Akum in 2018.

SATOM, going by inside sources, equally abandoned the project on claims that government is yet to pay their bills for some projects that they executed a long time ago in the country.

It was even alleged that the company was no longer interested in doing business in Cameroon and has been progressively transferring its equipment to Mauritania where   they have so much work to do in a less corruption-infested environment.

It is such a situation that is a veritable headache to the Minister of Public Works. For one thing, the technical evaluation of the stretch is almost complete.

The evaluation is tailored to enable the government to know how much work SATOM has done so as to award the contract to another company. Yet, the fact stands here that the Babadjou-Matazem road contract awarded to SATOM has not been officially cancelled.

According to experts, such a situation is a little complicated because in tandem with administrative procedures, it is easier to award a contract than to terminate one that is already under execution.  

Given the fact that SATOM had to construct the road only up to Matazem as per the second arrangement, the government took an administrative decision to bring in three Cameroonian companies to construct the stretch of the road from Matazem to Bamenda.

The companies are: BUNS, BOFAS and EDGE. These companies were officially confirmed by the project sponsor, the World Bank. The bank gave a go-ahead for government to speed up the procedure for the award of the contracts.

Since then, the Ministry of Public Works has only issued administrative documents to the companies, not contracts. Such documents which are signed by the Minister of Public Works are called “service orders”.

 Going by the administrative decision, BUNS has to construct the stretch of the road from Matazem to the area where there is the “Welcome To Bamenda” billboard which spans over 18 kilometres.

BOFAS will take the portion from “Welcome To Bamenda” through GBHS Mendakwe to the Chantal Biya Foundation area which covers a distance of 5 kilometres.

EDGE will take the relay from the Chantal Biya Foundation, Hot Spot, Amour Mezam junction, Bayelle junction at Mile 2 Nkwen, Finance Junction, Ngen Junction, Veterinary Junction, Sonac Street, City Chemist Round-About, Food Market, Hospital Round-About, Metta Quarters, T-Junction, Ayaba Street, and back to the Veterinary Junction. This stretch covers a distance of 11 kilometres.

EDGE’s enthusiasm to start work even before its signs an official contract with government, has stirred hiccups in Bamenda town.

According to experts in the Ministry of Public Works, the company did not follow all the administrative and technical norms. For one thing, the outfit is said to have started work without the approval plan.

The company is also faulted for not following the technical specifications prescribed by the project owner which is the government. As a result, some property which had not been paid for, has been destroyed.

Such a misstep calls for another evaluation commission. Such a situation has reportedly sparked off some tension between the Northwest Regional Delegate of Public Works and General Manager of EDGE.

Stakeholders have held several meetings with commissions from Yaounde in an attempt to soothe nerves on the issue.

Another headache is the portion of the road at Akum which often becomes impassible whenever it rains heavily. The BUNS Company would have taken responsibility for such a situation, but for the fact there is no official contract between the outfit and the government.

BUNS did the maintenance of the stretch from Matazem to the gateway into Bamenda in November and December last year, but has not yet received a dime of its payments from government.

The company did the maintenance works after a verbal agreement with the Ministry of Public Works, while waiting for the official signing of the contract.

Cameroon Factfinder learnt that the procedure to officially award contracts to the three companies could have long been completed as far back as November last year, but for some unscrupulous and corrupt officials who continue to play the game of personal interest.

Thus, a combination of factors that equally betrays government’s weak political will, has stalled the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road for over seven years.

Otherwise, it remains a curious coincidence that money reportedly got finished only when it concerned the construction of the Babadjou-Bamenda road that links the crisis-hit Northwest Region to the rest of the country.

In many other areas in the country road construction is going on hitch-free. For instance, all the major roads in Dja and Lobo Division of the South Region are either under construction or earmarked for construction and the funds are already available. Pundits are wondering if there is a deliberate attempt to cut off the Northwest from the rest of the country.