On July 24, 2017, then Public Health minister in Cameroon, André Mama Fouda announced “that dialysis equipment weighing more than 11 tons had arrived” by cargo plane, since July 21 of that year.
This was after one of several protests by patients was staged.
Fast forward to December 2019, three years later and another protest of a similar nature is once more ongoing.
This has raised several concerns, with many questioning whether the government needs protests every time to spur it to take action for the sake of kidney patients.
Talking to MMI during the recent protest in Yaounde, a patient said “If nothing is done we all will die”. This brings to mind the deaths of two patients suffering from kidney malfunction in Bamenda in 2015.
Despite this, government keeps falling back and acting only under pressure. The reason advanced by state officials for this Kamgaing Roger, one of the patients told MMI, is that they are not up to date with the situation in hospitals.
“They say they are not up to date with the situation in hospitals, the Directors are not telling the truth and that he will see what measures to take to ensure the management of hemodialysis centers by the ministry” Roger said.
Despite promising to put these measures in place, nothing concrete is yet to be done Roger explains, a situation dialysis patients in Cameroon have witnessed time without number.
“They gave us just promises, that our problems have been noted and will be solved” Kamgaing Roger stated.
Apart from the shortage of dialysis kits in Cameroon, another major challenge faced by patients is the high cost that currently stands at about 10.000FCFA a week for two dialysis sessions. The exorbitant amounts spent monthly alone patients say poses a huge challenge to them and their families leaving them with little or no money at all in the long run.
Roger like other patients says the government should do more to save them the cost. “We want it free, elsewhere it is free” he says.
To ensure dialysis patients also get befitting equipment, treatment as well as health care, Kamgaing Roger recommends that “a ministerial department be created to take care of dialysis in Cameroon”.
“They should not leave it in the hands of hospitals anymore, besides, the regional hemodialysis centers managed by the Ministry of Health are doing well” he adds.
While the true prevalence of chronic kidney disease (CKD) in Cameroon is unknown, experts say CKD is common, with a prevalence of 13.2 % reported in one region. Health experts also note that there has been a gradual increase in the number of Cameroonians receiving long-term haemodialysis.
Prevalence rates of 10.9% and 14.1% have also been reported in an urban and rural setting of the Western Region of Cameroon, respectively.
Agricultural workers are considered a high risk population for CKD with several plantations especially sugarcane plantations identified as risk environments.