malaria vaccine

Malaria Vaccine: Cameroon Introduces RTS, S/AS01, Targets 249,133 Children This Year

Cameroon is the first country to introduce the malaria vaccine into its vaccination program. This far, 1833 children have been vaccinated.


SOGOC joins the world to launch the 16-Day Activism Against Gender-Based Violence

Barely a week ago, Cameroonians expressed indignation as a husband beat his wife, a teacher, to the point where she lost her life in Cameroon’s economic capital, Douala. Women in Global Health Cameroon took the lead in saying no to gender-based violence.

It was against this backdrop that the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon, SOGOC, joined the rest of the world to launch activities to mark the 16-day activism against gender-based violence.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25, followed by the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, is a global moment to help #EndViolence against women and girls.

Prof. Emile Mboudou, SOGOC President, was represented during the launch by Prof. Felix Essiben, a gynecologist who doubles as SOGOC president for the Center Region, who examined the situation of gender-based violence worldwide. “Globally, an estimated 736 million women—almost one in three—have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, non-partner sexual violence, or both, at least once in their lives. Violence against women has been heightened across different settings as well, including the workspace and online spaces.” He further cites a global study by the Economist Intelligence Unit, which found that 38 percent of women have had personal experiences of online violence, and 85 percent of women who spend time online have witnessed digital violence against other women.

In Cameroon, the prevalence of gender-based violence is intricately linked with the sexual and reproductive health and rights of Cameroonian women, Mboudou said. He lamented that the consequences of gender-based violence (domestic violence, rape, and genital mutilation) on the reproductive health of women are usually not carefully considered. He illustrated this with the case of pregnancy resulting in rape, where the penal code allows for safe abortion. “Abortion authorization in Cameroon is interwoven with gender-based violence and thus should not be treated separately.” This explains the rationale for SOGOC joining the world to shine a light on ending gender-based violence and its adverse effect on Cameroonian women’s health.

Experts agree that violence negatively affects women’s physical and mental health and well-being at all stages of their lives and impacts their professional development and economic empowerment, with broader social and economic consequences for families, communities, and societies, and impedes the achievement of sustainable development.

Mboudou maintained that the right of women and girls to live free of violence is inalienable, fundamental, and a human right. He regretted that equality between women and men is guaranteed in Cameroon’s Constitution, but women are denied justice and protection from violence. He attributed this failure to a lack of investment and political will to meet women’s needs and protect their fundamental rights.

Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls is the theme of the 2023 16-day activism against gender-based violence.  Felix Essiben, a gynecologist and SOGOC Center Region President, explains how society can invest in preventing gender-based violence.

The launch of the 16-day Activism Against Gender-Based Violence was spiced with a walk in the Nkeleton neighborhood.

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ADE Initiates Conversations On Vaccine Equity, Seek Ways To Strengthen Immunization Coverage In SW Region

By Etienne Mainimo

Actions for Development and Empowerment (ADE has initiated conversations on vaccine equity to obtain citizens’ perceptions of health care service delivery as well as sensitize the population on the importance of vaccination.

On July 28, 2023, ADE organized a meeting with the Expanded Program on Immunization (EPI) focal points in Buea, Southwest Region, to examine the performance of the EPI in strengthening immunization coverage in the Southwest Region and in Cameroon in general.

During the meeting, healthcare workers raised several concerns and challenges they go through daily as far as vaccination is concerned.

“We have difficulty with Vaccine supply; when we go to take vaccines, they say vaccines are not available. Like the Rufarex vaccine, many patients came and left without taking it, said Celia Beringwe. They also attested to the fact that the BCG vaccine for children, ATC, is always low in supply, as is the COVID vaccine, which was unavailable during the second coverage.

Apart from the fact that the number of teams deployed for campaigns did not match the percentage of the population in the given area, healthcare workers also pointed out that the Lack of Motivation of EPI nurses was also a major concern, as some of them used their funds as transportation to go for training

However, some recommendations were outlined to strengthen immunization coverage in the Southwest region. Some of these suggested that EPI workers working in a particular district should be assigned to vaccinate in that community to solve the problem of trust.

Also, the government should ensure proper communication on vaccination before vaccination campaigns to avoid hesitancy from the population, send vaccines promptly and in large quantities to avoid shortages and motivate EPI staff financially for their efficiency.

Presentations were done on the dangers of non-vaccination and its effects on the population, the expanded program on immunization in the South West Region and success stories, government measures in ensuring immunization coverage and its effectiveness, and an analysis report on COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Africa: “COVID-19 vaccination, contextual analysis, and training manual.

ADE also carried out a sensitization campaign on Thursday, July 27, 2023, at the Muea market, Buea.

A team made up of three ADE personnel, five community mobilizers, the head of the communication unit for EPI, South West Region, a publicity agent, and ADE’s brand ambassador for #saveonesaveall; Auntie Felicia, stormed the Muea market and sensitized vendors and buyers on the importance of vaccination while presenting to them vaccines available in the region.

The citizens expressed their concerns concerning vaccinations. Among other things, they stated that the reason for their reluctance towards vaccination is due to a lack of adequate information from health personnel on the usage and side effects of vaccines.

They also mentioned that they do not trust some health personnel who are deployed to carry out vaccinations, especially in open spaces, as everyone has gotten into the process and they cannot differentiate who is authentic or not, hence the reason for their reluctance.

Promoting vaccine Equity is part of the COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project in Africa, which aims to encourage conversations about vaccine equity, distribution, hesitancy, and government commitment to the health sector.

CTAP is a project sponsored by Skoll Foundation and Conrad N. Hilton Foundation in partnership with Connected Development, CODE, and Follow The Money International which is currently the largest social mobilization and accountability movement in Africa.

ADE is a non-governmental organization created in 2019 to empower youth to act on issues surrounding them. ADE’s thematic areas include good governance and democracy, girl child education, and education for sustainable development goals.

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School-based Strategy To Support Adolescent Sexual And Reproductive Health

By Hadiza Sani

The absence of Sexual Health and Reproductive Rights Education in some schools seems to be one of the reasons some girls turn to teenage mothers and drop out of school. But, a school in Yaounde has come up with an initiative to support SHR education.

Precious, 18, started a relationship with Louis who seemed to show her love and care, but 10 months later, she is learning the hard way.

‘He was like my everything, I couldn’t spend a day without having a gasp of him, I pictured my future with him and it was such a beautiful fairytale but I knew nothing about the reality of life”, Ngefack recalls.

Precious got pregnant and that was when she started having knowledge of the reality of pregnancy at a young age with complications and financial needs.

“When I discovered I was pregnant I only got scared of how my parents would react but didn’t think of the hardship I will face because all I thought I needed was my boyfriend’s attention and care I didn’t have an idea about regular checkups, financial needs, medications to buy, severe neonatal condition and a lot more that I passed through”.

A student the boy that put Ngefack on the family way had no money, and neither did his family. So Ngefack’s family had to struggle to make sure she went for regular checkups. At that tender age, she had to give birth through an operation.

The boy and his family did not show up in the hospital, and Ngefack’s family had to struggle to raise money for the operation.

Ngefack went through a lot of hardship and she wished she was taught in school or beforehand how difficult teenage pregnancy could be.

‘If I had 2% of the knowledge of what I experienced during my pregnancy before, then I don’t think I would have ever taken such a decision and I do always advise the young ones I see for them not to make the same mistake I did because of lack of knowledge.”

Adolescence is the phase of life between childhood and adulthood, from ages 10 to 19. It is a unique stage of human development and an important time for laying the foundation of good health.

 According to UNFPA, every day at least 20,000 girls give birth, and every year, 12 million girls around the world become mothers. Most of these girls live in lower or middle-income countries. These girls are not irresponsible and becoming pregnant is not their fault rather, young motherhood is often the result of a community that has not invested enough to support educate, and understand their girls. When they can receive SRHR education, they do make good decisions about their bodies.

There has been a high rate of teenage pregnancies in Cameroon secondary schools over the years.

Statistics from the Cameroon 2018 Demographic and Health Survey, DHS indicates that one-quarter (24%) of adolescent women aged 15-19 are already mothers or are pregnant with their first child. Teenage childbearing ranges from only 6% in Douala to 44% in the East region and decreases with education. Almost half (48%) of young women with no education have started childbearing compared to only 1% of those with higher education.

Dr. Wadji Brigitte gynecologist mentioned that cases of adolescents who get pregnant have become really rampant in the hospital, ‘I have a lot of cases of adolescent pregnancy daily and the majority of them are unwanted or planned.”

Adolescence pregnancy comes with lots of complications both during and after birth given they were not planned and the teenagers are not ready physically or psychologically to take care of the pregnancy by going for regular antenatal consultations and taking prescribed medications.

“As teenagers, their systems are still not yet ready to accommodate the pregnancy which could cause anemia (a condition in which the blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells), hypertensive diseases such as preeclampsia (it happens when a woman who previously had normal blood pressure suddenly develops high blood pressure)  and during labor they are at high risk of having hemorrhage (bleeding under one of the membranes that surrounds the embryo inside the uterus) and some infections afterward. Most teenage pregnancies do lead to quick-term deliveries of premature babies. After birth, the teenager might likely face some psychological issues like anxiety, or depression,” the gynecologist explained.

In Cameroon, once a girl got pregnant, she was sent away while the boy remained in school and was not concerned. But, this has changed with the Minister of secondary school Pauline Nalova Lyonga signing a note that enables every pregnant girl to continue schooling till she is due for delivery.

To grow and develop in good health, adolescents need health information. Some schools have put in certain strategies to help educate and support adolescents’ sexual reproductive health.

Akie Nickson, the principal of College Polyvalent MCD, acknowledged the gap in knowledge that exist on teen sexual reproductive health and also explained the various strategies his school has put in place to help narrow the gap that does exist in teenagers’ sexual reproductive health.

“There are lots of teens who have gotten pregnant or contracted STDs because of lack of knowledge or fear to open up, as a school head, I saw it necessary to recruit more young female lecturers who take out their time to counsel and conscientize the students on their health and hygiene. I do believe female lecturers can easily get to adolescent girls and build up a connection of trust with them and also widen their health syllabus on reproductive health. “

The strategy may not be very effective as ‘some students are really timid and sometimes due to cultural and religious background, some students are not open and do cover up what they are facing.

Aimee Demanou, the biology and human biology teacher at MCD said, “‘During my first year as a human biology teacher, I felt uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing SRH topics with my students. Through my visits to hospitals, I saw how rampant teenage pregnancies have become so I try as much as I can to counsel my students.”

Adolescents do need constant reminders on sexual reproductive health and hygiene, Demanou started nurturing students from form one so they get used to and at times as a teacher she doesn’t need to see if it’s in the syllabus before talking SHR to students.

“Before I start my lesson I take out time to counsel my students and create a friendly atmosphere with them which help them open up indirectly by asking questions to which I do respond and advise them on what to do…..”

During interactions with some students, 70% of them really seem to understand SRH and some of its issues, some of them do shy during lessons on SRH and they do feel safer opening up to their mother or young female lecturers about what they are going through.

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


“Synergistic Plants Could Be A Source Of Combination Therapy For Malaria”-Researcher

Africa bears the burden of malaria with children under five accounting for 80 percent of Malaria deaths. WHO announced a global technical strategy aimed at reducing the global burden of malaria with research and innovation as one of the focus areas. Africa has joined the race with the African Academy of Sciences, the European Union, and the African Union supporting research through a 25 million euro project, African Research for Scientific Excellence-ARISE. In an interview with Cameroon Factfinder, ahead of World Malaria Day, Dr. Protus Arrey Tarkang a grantee of the African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE) program talked about his research, drug resistance, and policy around the implementation of research results. Read the excerpt:

Cameroon Factfinder: Is there enough investment in terms of research for malaria drugs in Africa?

Dr. Protus Tarkang: Investment in terms of research for malaria drugs is substantial but we cannot say it’s enough in the present circumstances. First, Africa bears the greatest burden of malaria. According to the WHO World malaria report 2021, it accounted for 96% (241 million) of global malaria cases in 2020 and 98% of global malaria deaths, with the poor and vulnerable populations experiencing the highest burden. Children under five accounted for about 80% of all malaria deaths in the same year. Secondly, over the past two decades, research for malaria drugs has taken up approximately 25% of the total funding dedicated to malaria control in Africa. In 2015, WHO announced a new global technical strategy (GTS) for malaria 2016-2030, aimed at reducing the global malaria burden by 90% by 2030. One of the three major pillars of that strategy is Innovation and research, which includes research on drugs for malaria. WHO estimates that additional funding of $673 million annually is needed for malaria research, which includes drugs, thereby justifying the fact that the available funding is not enough. Finally, despite the significant efforts to tackle malaria in Africa over the last 20 years, progress stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic, in addition to the emergence of resistance and poor health systems. Consequently, the envisaged goals in the GTS were not met and the funding gap between calculated needs and funds available has widened in recent years. This indicates that the total funding is inadequate to achieve the WHO global targets to reduce the malaria burden by 2030. Evidence for this is that the rate of withdrawal of malaria drugs from the list of essential drugs is higher than the rate of approval of new drugs. There is therefore a huge need for an increase in funding for malaria control, including research for malaria drugs.

What is the innovation in research around drug resistance?

Drug resistance is the reduction in the effectiveness of a medication in treating a disease or condition. In the context of malaria treatment, Artemisinin-based Combination Therapies (ACT) are the WHO-recommended treatment of choice for uncomplicated malaria. This consists of an artemisinin derivative and a partner drug that work together to reduce and eliminate the parasites. Therefore, we can talk about Artemisinin partial resistance, which is delayed parasite clearance after treatment with a drug containing an artemisinin derivative. Although a significant reduction of treatment efficacy has not been observed in association with delayed parasite clearance after treatment with a drug containing an artemisinin derivative, increases in the proportion of parasites carrying the malaria parasite mutation marker (PfKelch13) indicate that parasites with this mutation have an advantage under current treatment strategies and transmission dynamics. This could be due to higher transmissibility or improved fitness. Therefore innovation in research around malaria drug resistance is aimed at mitigating the risks and responding to the emergence and spread of antimalarial drug resistance, in accordance with the recommendations of the WHO strategy to respond to antimalarial drug resistance in Africa. Its objectives are to: i) improve the detection of resistance to ensure a timely response; ii) delay the emergence of resistance to artemisinin and artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT) partner drugs; and iii) limit the selection and spread of resistant parasites where resistance has been confirmed. This strategy for attaining these objectives is centered around four pillars: strengthen surveillance of antimalarial drug efficacy and resistance, optimize and better regulate the use of diagnostics and therapeutics to limit drug pressure through pre-emptive measures, react to resistance by limiting the spread of antimalarial drug-resistant parasites, stimulate research and innovation to better leverage existing tools and develop new tools against resistance.

Can Africa attain zero malaria in terms of treatment?

Saying that Africa can attain zero malaria in terms of treatment will be an overstatement for the following reasons: First, zero malaria is a status that cannot be attained through treatment alone but through the implementation of many interlinked strategies, which include the product area (diagnostics, vaccines, and therapeutics), other areas of science (clinical trials, interventions, and product development, public health and cross-disciplinary), functional health systems and relevant policy implementation. All these areas contribute to their quota and require huge funding. Secondly, not all African countries possess the same level of national and international funding for malaria control or the same level of health delivery systems. Furthermore, extending malaria control measures to universal health coverage targets is a key challenge to many African countries. Insufficient investment contributes to the current intervention coverage gaps and the malaria burden. Finally, interlinkages between progress towards malaria elimination and economic wealth also imply that as countries get wealthier, they face graduation from donors’ funding while successful malaria elimination requires predictable sustained funding to reach and sustain malaria-free status, which is not the case for many African countries. Therefore, for Africa to attain zero malaria, it will need to do more.

What is your search on drugs about and how can this help Africa?

My current research is an African Research Initiative for Scientific Excellence (ARISE) project. Our focus is on the application of innovative mass spectrometry technologies for profiling bioactive molecules of selected synergistic antimalarial plants, combined with the development of high and medium-throughput screening methods, for the discovery of new therapeutic leads for malaria drug discovery. We are aware that plants have played a vital role in the therapeutics of malaria, by providing the main drugs such as quinine (and its derivative chloroquine), atovaquone, and artemisinin (and its derivatives). Furthermore, the rapid emergence of resistance in the malaria parasite to synthetic drugs compared to drugs sourced from natural sources indicate the relevance of plants. Therefore, in the context of combination therapies, synergistic plants could be a source of combination therapy for malaria. Hence, we can term this project “ looking back into the future” of malaria drug discovery.

The expected outcomes that will be useful for Africa include the: Implementation of a drug discovery platform with MTS and high throughput screening (HTS) liquid handling systems. Development of an advanced technological platform by direct combination of High-Resolution Mass Spectrometry (HRMS) and malaria parasite asexual blood stage-specific susceptibility, generating data to improve knowledge on malaria combination therapy, the discovery of synergistic plant secondary metabolites, as leads with established modes of action, to enable further development, promotion of national and international collaboration, development of Leadership skills and capacity building in Pharmaceutical medicine, training of graduate students, knowledge transfer, and dissemination of scientific knowledge, strengthening capacities for science in Africa by developing the human capital through training of students and scientists. Provision of scientific evidence for policy. ARISE fellowships are aimed at building the capacity of African researchers, particularly early-career scientists, to deliver cutting-edge research in contribution to efforts being made towards the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based and innovation-led continent. Specifically, ARISE seeks to: enhance the capabilities of emerging African early career research leaders committed to a research and teaching career in Africa, strengthen institutional research management and support systems to enable pan-African research to thrive, and support the generation of cutting-edge research in contribution to the transformation of Africa into a knowledge-based and innovation-led continent. ARISE is a Euro 25 million program implemented by the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) in partnership with the European Union (EU) and the African Union (AU).

What advice to malaria-endemic countries like Cameroon and other African countries?

My advice to malaria-endemic countries like Cameroon and other African countries would directly fall in line with the “Rethinking Malaria” global consultation forum of health experts, which through its discussions along governance, integrated service delivery, and training and capacity building, made the following recommendations on defined themes: Perception of the malaria problem: Malaria needs to be viewed as a societal problem of development, and not as a medical problem alone, the leadership of the malaria problem: Efforts must be led by endemic countries in partnership with multiple stakeholders within each country., investment in the health workforce: Health workers at all levels should be empowered through readiness, training, and education, visibility and use of reliable and real-time data, knowledge, and information: Malaria data needs to be valued and visible and used by the public and policy-makers, as it has been for COVID-19 decision-making, innovation: Globally, greater attention should be given to innovation and problem-solving and to support endemic countries in entrepreneurship, R&D, and manufacturing, strengthening health systems: Health for all means solving the problem of malaria as a pillar of universal health coverage.

What are some of the challenges around Malaria research in Africa?

Some of the challenges around malaria research in Africa include institutions with inadequate research support structures to attract relevant funding for research and promote fruitful collaborations, inadequate technological platforms to promote innovation, poorly developed health systems that hinder relevant health delivery, inadequate national and international funding to enable good science and relevant data generation poor remunerations for researchers, thereby encouraging researchers’ mobility to greener pastures, lack of strategies for the promotion of research results., inadequate exploitation of research results for policy.

Do African governments implement research results?

Implementation of research results brings about development in various domains. In this regard, the various indices of development of the various African countries would be evidence of their level of economic development and would reflect the government’s effort at the implementation of research results.

What advice in terms of policy around Malaria research?

When it comes to global strategies towards attaining certain policy objectives, it is advisable not to reinvent the wheel but to endeavor to explore the strategies at the disposal of policymakers before trying to propose new ones, because there is a lot to learn from their implementation. My advice in terms of policy around malaria will be to explore available documents such as the various annual world malaria reports, available scientific data, and especially the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016-2030 and keenly consider the new information therein, which includes the following; under the Global Technical Strategy for Malaria 2016–2030, annual investment targets per person at risk of malaria have been estimated and are expected to increase by 2030. The total investment needed for malaria control and elimination is not expected to decrease before 2030, reflecting in part population growth in currently high-burden countries and the costs of surveillance in countries near elimination. Therefore, considering the urgent need to increase domestic and international funding for malaria and health more generally, the priority of policymakers should be to ensure the efficient use of currently available resources to maximize value for money by investing in the health workforce, implementing technological innovation surveillance, and strengthening health systems.

Do you have any message to pass across concerning malaria?

Malaria control and elimination strategy is not a myth but a reality and the meaningful participation of everyone living in endemic areas is essential. Therefore, all stakeholders should endeavor to understand what is needed in order to know their role.

Interviewed by Leocadia Bongben

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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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Cameroon Can Now Boost Of A Referral Pathway For Rape Management-What Will Change?

By Leocadia Bongben

The Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon, SOGOC Cameroon, has launched a referral guide for the management of rape cases.

The reference guide identifies components of clinical management approaches for the care of rape survivors, receiving survivors and first-line support, performing physical and genital examinations and the collection of forensic evidence, establishing a medico-legal document, and reporting medical findings amongst others.

Prof. Robert Leke

On what the document will change, Prof, Robert Leke, president of the Society of Gynecologists and Obstetricians of Cameroon, SOGOC explains.

The project to design a referral document enters into the inceptive objective of SOGOC to make reproductive health accessible, available, and affordable to women in Cameroon.

Prof. Leke maintains that a major problem faced during the 32 years of existence of SOGOC has been a very high mortality rate pegged at 782 per 100,000 live births ten years ago. As such, he stresses the increase in maternal mortality, which interests SOGOC.

Leke stressed that more often after rape cases, the victim becomes pregnant leading to unwanted pregnancies and induced abortions carried out under hard and difficult circumstances which sometimes end in death.

According to Ngang Peter, consultant in the production of the rape management guide, statistics indicate that 13% of women in Cameroon have experienced sexual violence, 5 % within 12 months according to the 2018 DHS report. Also, 30 percent of maternal deaths are related to unsafe abortions he states.

Against this backdrop, Ngang says before now it was a torturous adventure that many ended up abandoning to try to get medical healthcare for survivors of rape.

Peter Ngang emphasized that recording and documentation have been sloppy, as a survivor would go to court to press charges for rape, but the report received by the examining judge is not complete or lacks certain elements to enable a meaningful judgment.

“Article 339 of the penal code, which provides guidelines on the procedure to follow for rape, does not give sufficient information to help the clinical practitioner or actors and stakeholders directly involved to interpret what to do with such cases”.

He maintains that termination of pregnancies after 12 weeks comes with increased health risks for the woman, so something had to be done. These cases take three to six months, a year, and a very long time to arrive at judgment; it becomes a very big challenge.

It is within this premise that the referral document, which he says should be used in association with international guidelines, was produced.

“Today was just to let the public know that the document exists and would be multiplied and sent out to all the regional delegates if funds permitted,” a SOGOC Board member said.

The pathway document was handed to the representatives of the Ministries of Health, Women’s Empowerment, and Justice and SOGOC network partners like CIVITAS Cameroon.

Document to the Ministry of Health
Document to CIVITAS
Document to Women’s Affairs Ministry

Burkina Faso Calls For Transparency In COVID-19 Testing

By Etienne Mainimo

Team officials of the Burkina Faso’s national football team have called on authorities of the Confederation of African Football, CAF to do everything possible to ensure transparency as far as COVID-19 testing is done. 

The Deputy Coach, Firmin Sanou and Team Captain, Bertrand Troare made the statement during a pre-match press conference as the team prepares towards confronting Cameroon in the opening game of the 2021 TotalEnergies Africa Cup of nations, AFCON on January 9 in Yaounde.

The statement came on the heels of alleged manipulation of results.  
Firmin Sanou said, “…The protocol for COVID test was not respected because we had our test at 11pm last night instead of 48 hours as it is supposed to be. It is unacceptable and we want to know why they were two health teams that came to our hotel.”

Taking the floor, Bertrand Troare said, “We can’t be told at the eve of our match that some of our players will not take part in the match. It is unacceptable and we were told that the of the two health team that came to our hotel, one was not from CAF. The authorities need to rethink and see into the organization of this. There must be transparency.”

“if a group want to come and do the test, it must be from CAF and must be transparent for everything to be clear,” he added.

Burkina Faso have filed an official complain to CAF. Meanwhile Cameroon Health Minister, Manaouda Malachie has reacted saying CAF is responsible for testing teams and officials.

Lions Covid 2

TotalEnergies AFCON 2021: Covid-19, Injury Lurking In Lions’Den

Barely nine days to the official start of the TotalEnergies African Nations Cup, AFCON 2021, four players have tested positive for Covid-19.

The Lions started their pre-tournament training camp on Monday December 27 but news from the den is not reassuring.

kunde Malong, Jean Konguep Efala, Michael Ngadeu Ngadjui, and Christian Bassogong have been quarantined after they were confirmed positive, the team doctor, William Ngatchou said.

Choupo Moting came off training with a knee pain, additional medical tests would ascertain how bad the injury is the medical staff stated.

Meanwhile, Stephen Bahoken, plying his trade for Bordeau and already out of the competition came to camp for the medical staff to confirm his injury.

This news is not reassuring for the team, determined to go as far as possible in the competition.

Training ahead of AFCON Cameroon2021

Cretdit Photos: Serge Guiffo -Media Officer

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”


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.

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"

Vaccination in Yaounde

Covid-19 Vaccine In Cameroon: Which, When, Where To Get The jab

By Leocadia Bongben

Cameroon is getting set to receive the Chinese vaccine, Sinopharm which would be the first after suspending the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.  

By April 11, 2021 Cameroon would receive 200,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccine, the fruit of the Sino-Cameroon relations. 

According to the permanent secretary of the Enlarged Immunization Programme, PEV Dr. Tchokfe Shalom Ndoula, the distribution and storage plan is ready in the ten regions. 

“There are 522 centres in health districts in all the ten regions. For a start in Yaoundé, three sites would be specially opened for vaccination-the Conference centre, sports complex and the national museum. 

We are ready after three months to have made all the arrangements to receive the vaccine to be stored in PEV facilities, Ndoula explained.

Efficacy of the Chinese vaccine

WHO experts have say Sinopharm is good for Covid-19 symptoms and is 79 percent efficient. 

Vaccination is the best way to reduce the spread of the Coronavirus, experts agree. 

Other countries that have received the Chineses vaccine are Mauritania, Congo-Brazzaville, Egypt, Gabon, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Senegal,  Seychelles and Zimbabwe. 

The Scientific Council and the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group proposed three vaccines, the Oxford AstraZeneca, the Chinese Sinopharm and the Russian Sputnik V.

For now nothing has been said of how many doses of Sputnik V, only that Cameroon has an agreement with the Russian Direct Investment Fund that claims the vaccine is 91.6% effective. 

Government had to suspend the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine following suspicion of blood clots among other side effects. 

As of April 1, Cameroon confirmed a total of 57 337 cases, 4717 active cases, 51 769 recoveries and 851 deaths.  

Voluntary vaccination


According to the Minister of Public Health, Manaouda Malachie, the target is frontline workers-health personnel, persons above 50 years with co-morbidity. 
He insisted vaccination is targeted and voluntary in the phases of allegations that a bill is underway to make vaccination obligatory.

First published on bongben.wordpress blog on April 8

Peron with disability

How Early Covid-19 Responses Ignored Persons With Disabilities

What distance can a person with visual impairment keep as a measure of curbing the spread of  Covid -19 ? What does the washing of hands represent for people with mobility challenges?

These and many more,  were the questions absent from early responses to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The world was shocked from a slumber by the out break of the Coronavirus pandemic that spread across the world like a wild fire.

Experts say Covid-19 is an acute respiratory illness in humans caused by a coronavirus, capable of producing severe symptoms and in some cases death, especially in older people and those with underlying health conditions. It was originally identified in China in 2019 and became pandemic in 2020.

Different countries and governments tried various treatment protocols, but preventive measures are deemed as the likely measure to keep the virus at bay.

However, these measures according to Comfort Mussa, media person and Advocate for the rights of persons with disabilities, were ‘disability blind’-do not take into account persons with visual impairment.

“Maintaining social distance does not translate to everybody, how can this be communicated to people who cannot see, what does the distance looks like? What does hand washing mean for people with mobility challenges, for people who need caregivers?,  she quizzed. 

According to her, Covid-19 early national responses from government and civil societies left out persons with disabilities. 

“Covid-19 is still around and would not be over for any body until it is over for everybody. The voices of people with disabilities are still missing where policies are made. Unless you live with people with disabilities, you cannot think about their needs in planning”, Mussa said.

Comfort Muss was part of ‘People of Commonwealth critical conversations on ‘Equity and Justice in Covid-19 Responses’, skillfully moderated by Hilary Ghedemah- a Lawyer with 44 years of experience in academia , legal practice, advocacy, national and international policy.

Experts on the occasion identified the weaknesses in the responses, ranging from the non inclusion of persons with disabilities, to how the pandemic deepen existing poverty, especially through lockdowns and curfews.  

Some measures like lockdowns created even more problems for women such as increase domestic and gender violence with confinements.

Panelists from, Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and other countries all agreed that women were experiencing the pandemic differently from men.

Women and persons with disabilities should be given a space at the decision making table for them to contribute to meaningful changes in the Covid-19 response, panelists concluded.