By Sah Terence Animbom
Following the escalation of the Anglophone crisis into an armed conflict growing at the speed of light, the growing need for immediate humanitarian action and aid has continued to grow at an exponential rate on daily basis since October 2017. With more than 500,000 internally displaced persons so far, excluding the over 40.000 refugees in Nigeria, it is clear that one humanitarian organization cannot handle the many health needs of the masses affected. It is on this background that an international humanitarian organization known as Doctors Without Borders and mostly by its French acronym Medicins Sans Frontieres made its entry into the country and into the North West Region in September 2018 in a bid to carter for the health needs of the affected populations of the North West Region especially women and children who happen to be the most vulnerable set of persons in the society and especially during crisis situations.
The gubernatorial curfew that has been a phenomenon in the North West Region for over a year now has made it difficult for very complicated health cases to access medical help since people are restricted from moving in the night. There is no need to belabor how many pregnant women have lost their lives during complicated child birth at home because of the restrictions on movement and how many have given birth on the roads and in the open air at night while desperately waiting for a hospital ambulance that either never comes or while calling a hospital ambulance whose line is never answered.
The Bamenda population thinks Doctors without Borders have actually bridged that gap as they have attended to so many emergencies and in a very timely manner.
It is however very regrettable that the organization which is supposed to cover the entire North West Region has kind of restricted its Activities to Bamenda and Widikum since they are the only completely accessible areas of the region at the moment. Even Widikum is not always very accessible thus making aid from Doctors Without Borders destined for the Sub Division to sometimes get delayed.
The organization works in partnership with some of the referral hospitals of the region but has not been able to engage into real business with some of the best hospitals in the region which happen to be found in Amba rocked areas. St. Martin De Porres’ Catholic Hospital Njinikom has been retarded from such a partnership due to the many road blocks that are often imposed on the road leading to the hospital by Ambazonian Restoration Fighters in Boyo division as well as the Mbingo Baptist Hospital whose road too has been blocked countless times.
One of the most hit is the St. Elizbeth Cardiac center of the Shisong Hospital in Kumbo Bui division that has suffered a no access for over five months leading to many deaths. Travelling to Bui division has been made impossible several times thus making it very hard for health personnel and patients from outside the town to access the area.
Talking with the Field Coordinator for Doctors Without Borders for the North West Region, Miss Esperanza, she made it clear that both parties of the conflict in the region have to understand that they are a completely neutral and independent humanitarian organization that is out to bring health care to the vulnerable in times of need.
She regrets that the many road blocks mounted by separatists’ fighters along the major roads to some chief towns of the region have made it difficult for them to bring health care to all that need it. She however noted that the population of Bamenda has been very collaborative and has made very good use of the Ambulance service put at their disposal as over 800 people have so far benefited from their services both direct health care intervention and ambulance service intervention.
Quizzed on whether combatants too can benefit from their services, she replied “when we receive a patient we do not want to know who you are we receive you as a patient. What is important to us is your life so we cannot judge who to treat and who not to treat. So we treat everybody regardless of background”. She also emphasized on the need for all Bamenda denizens to have their ambulance call service number.
The SUN Newspaper spoke to a woman whose husband was abducted by Ambazonian Restoration Fighters and brutally beaten on basis of professional malpractices. He was later taken to the Bamenda Regional Hospital and Doctors Without Borders intervened to take care of most of her bills. Another was a woman who just gave birth to a baby girl after she was rushed to the Hospital with the help of the Ambulance of Doctors Without Borders. The Bamenda population thinks they are a bridge to their good health especially during curfew hours.
The inhabitants of Boyo, Bui, Donga Mantung, Ngohketunjia and Menchum remain very hopeful that such a life saving service can meet them in their Amba rocked communities.