Cameroon: Weakened by armed conflict, inhabitants of NW and SW brace for COVID-19

Bamenda City

Devastated by the armed conflict in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon, some inhabitants wonder if they are ready to bare another crisis. For close to four years, continuous gunshots, killings, kidnapping, economic stagnation and violation of human rights have been the order of the day. Many residents have abandoned their homes in search of security while others have lost their jobs or shut down their business sites.

The coming of the new coronavirus and its anti-measures is described by many citizens as nature’s way of adding “more fuel to fire”.

Ndifor Louisa Lum, a banker in Bamenda, says life has not been easy for her in the North West Region and now she has to deal with COVID-19.

“I have been traumatized for years because of the constant kidnappings and killings. Now this virus is here and it spreads like wildfire – it scares me. Are you to deal with kidnappers or a virus that respects no one?” Louisa asks.

Despite being terrified, Louisa is putting in practice all recommended measures by the government to fight this virus.

“I wash my hands and stay home but I think a lockdown will help the country curb this virus. The persistent movement by citizens increases the transmission rate of this virus”. Louisa adds.

Cameroon now has a record of 284 cases, 7 deaths, and 10 recoveries. An indicator that the virus isn’t relenting its effort in consuming the state.

To Gohla Loveline, a business woman in Buea, South West region, mentally, she is not ready to fight this new virus and prays it doesn’t get to the two troubled regions (NW and SW).

“These two regions have suffered a lot and the population is barely surviving. If Coronavirus hits these regions, then we are as good as dead”.

She, however, appreciates the effort of the government in fighting the disease, but advocates for a lockdown so as to contain the virus.

Ngong Song Jean Marie, a journalist in Bamenda, says he is very ready to fight COVID-19 because it is more dangerous than the conflict.

“It kills more than the gun and if you are infected, the chances of infecting love ones are more than the bullet. I do my best to respect the anti-COVID 19 measures but the government needs to enforce these measures to save the population from themselves and others”.

Jean Marie is alarmed due to the poor health system in Cameroon and the number of recorded deaths globally.

In the South West region, a health official who asked to stay anonymous, states that the region is not ready for the coronavirus. Most health facilities have been shut down and many areas are inaccessible due to the armed conflict.

“It is going to be difficult for health officials to visit such areas if hit by the virus and those areas don’t have basic necessities such as water. Those who live in the bushes will find it difficult to respect the preventive measures such as hand washing and proper hygiene”.

The high transport fare imposed on the population by drivers who want to respect the measures put in place by the government doesn’t make the situation better. In addition, many citizens are yet to respect social distancing.

“I think the only solution is for the government to lock down the country so as to stop movements, which greatly reduce the number of coronavirus cases in the country”. He adds

On the 23rd of March 2020, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global cease-fire in all conflict zones, so as to enable countries to focus on the true fight (COVID-19). In solidarity, the Southern Cameroons defend forces headed by Ebenezer Akwanga announced a periodic cease-fire. This is to enable humanitarian workers to access vulnerable areas in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon. Though contested by other Ambazonian leaders, many citizens hope a cease-fire can be declared by both parties involved in the current conflict.

On the other hand, the Bamenda city council mayor, Achombong Tembeng Paul, holds another view. To him, the city and region as a whole have to be ready to fight this new virus. The mayor has put in place measures to disinfect and keep the city clean from Thursday 2nd April 2020.

“There is no money in the coffers but I can’t sit and wait for Yaounde to act while the city is collapsing. This is our city, and if we should be quarantined in the future, let the city be clean”. Says Tembeng Paul

Mayor Achombong Paul has also called on stakeholders in Bamenda to donate to the cleaning exercise so as to keep Bamenda safe.

In the South West Region, Governor Okalia Bilai on the 31st of March, 2020 prohibited the activities of restaurants and entertainment spots. Residents have been advised to purchase and consumed food and drinks at home.

By Maikem Emmanuela Manzie



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