Emergency humanitarian service, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says its six-month absence from Cameroon’s North West region has caused untold harm on civilians given the nature of the armed conflict they are caught up in.
In a latest release assessing the situation, MSF noted that the lack of an adequate spontaneous response team on the ground has made life extremely unbearable for thousands of civilians.
Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF Operations Coordinator for Central Africa noted that “vital medical services have been denied for six months now, and this is taking an unacceptable toll on Cameroonian citizens, many of whom have fled to the bush, unable to bear the sights, sounds and threats of violence any longer”.
Describing government’s decision to stop MSF operations in Bamenda since December 2020 as “a substantial blow to medical and humanitarian access,” the coordinator reiterated that MSF community health workers see people die and suffer because of the lack of treatment available in villages and displaced communities, and its ambulance call centre continues to receive emergency requests, but is forced to turn them down.
“We call once again on the government of Cameroon to put the needs of the population first, and to immediately reinstate MSF’s essential medical services in the North-West. Our operations cannot remain on hold indefinitely” Emmanuel Lampaert urged.
Thousands in need of urgent aid
According to it release, MSF in 2020, treated 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations and performed 3,272 surgeries. In the same year, it added, 4,407 patients were referred by ambulance, of which more than 1,000 were women in labour; 42,578 consultations were provided by community health volunteers, mostly for malaria, diarrhoea and respiratory tract infections.
MSF to Emmanuel Lampaert, is “… one of the few medical organisations present in those two regions to respond to people’s emergency medical needs, in a very challenging context”.
“Since we started our interventions, our medical staff, volunteers and patients have regularly faced threats and violence from both state and non-state armed groups, with very little respect shown for the humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality. Our ambulances have been fired on and stolen, community health workers have faced sexual assault and murder, armed men have opened fire inside medical facilities, and our colleagues have faced death threats. Despite these extremely difficult situations, our staff kept on providing care to people in need, day after day,” the Operations Coordinator for Central Africa added.
Till date, authorities are yet to provide any adequate reason for suspending the activities of the humanitarian body in the North West region, at a time citizens need it the most.