Health experts warn that the two English speaking regions may loss what is left of the youth population to teenage pregnancies, STDs, HIV and other related diseases if nothing is done to end the violence. The over four years armed conflict and no school, has amplified the sexual activities of these youths. From June – August 2019, 67 Gender Based Violence (GBV) survivors have been to the hospital with some pregnant.
Coupled with others affected by the crisis, it is becoming problematic for the few existing health facilities to meet the reproductive health needs of the population.
Mah Cecilia Kongla an administrator of Mount Mary hospital in the South West region of Cameroon, says teenage pregnant girls aged 15 – 21, from hostile communities come to the hospital empty handed, knowing that they will be well taken care of.
“I call them ‘invisible girls’, because we don’t know where they come from. We learnt they practice group sex in their communities. Our concern is to take care of the mother and baby,” Cecilia said.
These girls are exposed to diseases that are dangerous to them and their babies.
“When we run lab tests, they are diagnosed with malnutrition, severe malaria, HIV, anemia and STDs. Unfortunately we can’t get to their partners to treat them. And it is difficult to do follow up, make sure they have safe deliveries and take care of their babies,” she said.
Doctors Without Borders stepped in to pay their bills, but the girls are still in need of cloths amongst other basic items, with that of the baby.
“It is a big challenge for us as we need to provide them the special care they need. Some deny leaving the hospital after treatment because they need love and care,” Cecilia said.
Another group of vulnerable persons who visit the hospital from the forest are old people. Weak and tired, they need medical help but can’t afford it. Sometimes the staff of Mount Mary contributes money to help out.
Nyunyam Isidore Soh, General supervisor of the hospital says he has a debt to pay because he took charge of the bills of some patients.
Apart from struggling to handle issues with funding and lack of medical supplies, the hospital still has to tackle with lock downs which make mobility difficult.
“On Mondays, we open our doors because you don’t know what can happen. We have only one ambulance that move on such days to bring in emergency cases.
“There is a population I call Monday children because they were born prematurely on Mondays, due to pressure and tension from the environment,” Cecilia added.
Assistance has been pouring in from Doctors Without Borders, World Health Organization and Red Cross. UNFPA provided mothers kit for those who can’t prepare to receive their babies.
Despite the support received, Mah Cecilia says more funds and supplies are needed to help more of those affected.
This raises issues affecting sustainable development goal (SDG 3) which targets are dedicated to handling pressing issues surrounding maternal health and child mortality rate. To reduce maternal and child mortality, all actors in Cameroon including the private sector need to develop health care solutions that work for people, families and communities.
Poor health threatens human rights, limits economic opportunities and increases poverty in communities in the country that are already poverty stricken.
By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie