The Mbingo Baptist Hospital of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CHCHS) has been called out for its alleged complicity in the death of a child with hearing impairment.
10-year-old Rejoice Biy was found dead not far from the hospital yard a month ago, health officials told the family on Saturday, November 5th, 2022. Yet, no adequate explanation has been given as to how it happened or who is to be held responsible.
The back story
Speaking to MMI on the basis of anonymity, a source close to the little girl’s family revealed that she was scouted and taken to Mbingo Baptist Hospital by the institution’s authorities, with permission from her parents with whom she lived in Oku, in the North West Region of Cameroon. Given that the little girl had speech impairments, the hospital is said to have pledged to take her to its school for special needs children for medical care and training.
“It was an agreement because they move around and collect children living with disabilities for the school for children with special needs,” explained the source.
Rejoice Biy was taken from Oku in the Bui division on Saturday, September 17th, 2022, and she arrived Mbingo in the Momo Division on a Sunday. Going by what hospital authorities later told the family on phone, the child went missing on Monday, September 19th, 2022, prompting a search operation.
The child is said to have disappeared around the Baptist church not far from the hospital: “The church is within a vicinity. To get out of the church and disappear for a month and a half unnoticed is pretty suspicious,” explained our source.
Rescue efforts in vain
Following the child’s disappearance, a huge search and rescue operation was organized by the Baptist church. Our source noted that “they searched for the child for about a month and a half …. There was a guarantee that they would find the child, maybe she just went down to the market square.”
One week later when the search was proving futile, the child’s mother is said to have travelled to Mbingo, distraught. Still, her presence made no difference, and the child remained unfound. After a week, the mother is reported to have returned to Oku village, with no updates, and without her daughter.
About a month later, the family was informed that their child had been found – dead. Going by the version recounted to them by the hospital, “… the child was found decomposed in the woods not far from the church, and only the bones were found. The child was identified from the dresses she was putting on.”
Despite this, the family was not given access to the child’s corpse or a chance to confirm the identity of the corpse too.
“I just believe they know what happened to the child. The whole family believes that something happened to that child because where the child was found many had searched for her on the same spot days before,” explained the family source, adding that: “for a child to decompose to that level and nobody could perceive that smell remains suspicious.”
Power triumphs procedure
The unequal power relations between the hospital and the child’s family continued to play a huge role, with regard to how the case was handled. The Mbingo Baptist Hospital belongs to the powerful, rich, and influential Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. The victim’s father on his part, pastor of a local Baptist congregation, is said to be of the lower class of society, and barely getting by with his family.
Shockingly, “the hospital refused the parents to identify the child. They just asked the parents to wait in Oku and they would bring the corpse. Since there was no corpse, bones were brought,” revealed the family source.
He went on to question the intentions as well as the process, asking why the corpse was transported despite its decomposing state, and if any official procedure was respected. To him, the question is “why would they violate state policy to transport a child in the process of decomposition? Hygienically it is not right. Medically it is wrong.”
Given the pungent smell emanating from the coffin, the kid did not get a proper burial, as hardly anyone could even get close to it. The parents were not permitted to open the casket, and it was dropped into a shallow grave and sealed.
To the family member, “nobody saw what was inside…. It was a rushed process. Currently, the family and the whole community are speechless. The whole community is affected.”
This, he added, is “not by the death of the child but because of what the child went through before dying, what happened to their child and with the rushed process.”
The financial situation of the parents, coupled with the fragile security situation (Anglophone Crisis), has contributed to muting the parents and leaving them helpless.
Human rights defenders out of the picture
“Currently there is no human rights body involved in this case because the parents of Rejoice Biy, do not have the means and they are pretty much intimidated based on the security concerns right now in the North West region,”a reliable source who refused to be named told MMI.
In addition to that, the thought of going against one of the biggest and most influential health institutions sends shivers down their spine, coupled with the association the child’s father has with the Cameroon Baptist Convention. Being a powerful and big organization, some family members have described the CBC as an institution that has the powers to do and undo, “especially when they are acting with people from disadvantaged backgrounds like the parents of late Biy”.
Mbingo Baptist Hospital fails to respond
Over a week ago, MMI approached the health institution’s communication department for a comment. A referral was made to Clementina Bih, staff at the institution’s communication unit, she said she would revert in a moment, as she was in a meeting.
However, she never did and has since declined to respond to all forms of communication more than one week after the request was made.
MMI will be happy to get reactions from the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services.
(C) Mimi Mefo Info Exclusive.