Several worries have been raised regarding Cameroon’s management of the COVID-19 virus as the number if positive cases keep rising.
With over 800 positive cases already and the possibility of an increase, rights body, Human Right Group notes that Cameroon is dealing with the pandemic at a time of crises including that in the Anglophone regions and the Boko Haram in the Far North region.
Describing government measures as “crucial steps”, HRW says more however needs to be done with respect to humanitarian missions in the country.
“The authorities should allow unhindered access to aid organizations in conflict zones to deliver life-saving assistance” it states, adding that “ongoing attacks by Boko Haram and separatists and military operations in these areas have already severely restricted access for aid agencies and their capacity to assess needs and deliver assistance to the people most in need.”
To HRW senior researcher, Ilaria Allegrozzi, “More needs to be done to ensure that those at greatest risk and those who are fleeing fighting are protected from infection and able to get care if they become sick.”
Citing an April 8 news release from the US Embassy asking Cameroon’s government to let UN Humanitarian Air Service resume its flights and allow aid workers and medical supplies, HRW says the situation in the Anglophone regions is getting worse as a ceasefire has not been respected.
“In the North-West and South-West regions, health facilities have been badly affected by the violence, exacerbating a situation in which the hospitals, like many across the country, lack capacity and equipment. According to the UN children’s agency, UNICEF, only 34 percent of health facilities are functional in the Anglophone regions” it reveals.
“The Cameroon government has taken steps to contain the spread of COVID-19, including shutting schools and universities, closing borders, banning mass gatherings, encouraging people to follow hygiene rules, and creating a help line. Medical staff, however, have told Human Rights Watch of their concerns that the pandemic is straining the resources of an already fragile health care system.”
Noting that even major cities like Yaounde and Douala are ill prepared to handle the virus, HRW cites the threat in Equinoxe TV for broadcasting a declaration by Maurice Kamto, adding that “government seems more concerned with silencing free speech ”
To Allegrozzi, what government should do is “accelerate its response to COVID-19, expand access to testing, and make sure those affected by violence, including the displaced, are protected and have access to care”. Failure to do so, “shortages of goods, including food and non-food items, water, shelter, and health care could have a devastating impact on people who are already vulnerable.”
Going by official figures, Cameroon has 710 active cases and have registered 12 deaths. A majority of the positive cases of the virus however are in the Littoral and Center regions, the most equipped in the country.