MFH Responds to Crisis in Cameroon

Medicines for Humanity has worked in Cameroon for 15 years. Our longstanding partnerships with the Tertiary

Sisters of St. Francis, the Sisters of St. Therese, and the Sisters of St. John of Chavanod, have resulted in significant decreases in child morbidity and mortality in the North West and South West regions of the country. Unfortunately, political upheaval and violence has engulfed these two regions for the last two years and reversed many of these gains. This devastating violence has created a critical mass of internally displaced people (IDPs). The destructive impact of this ongoing conflict underscores the urgent need for humanitarian relief and has fortified our resolve to execute life-saving support and assistance during this perilous conflict.

To date, 170+ villages have been burnt and 4,000 people killed. More than half a million people have been displaced (120,000 in MFH operational areas). Most are hiding in forests with little access to shelter, clean water, food, and healthcare. Roads have been blockaded, making access to parts of the North West and South West impossible for weeks at a time. Internet and electricity blackouts are common. Schools and courts have been shut down for two years. In many communities, necessities such as food staples are not available. Very few NGOs have acted to support people in the regions.

Many mothers hide in the forests, too afraid to travel on insecure roads to health clinics for much-needed care. Children are sick and malnourished, and pregnant women give birth without shelter. There is no accessible medical care for these vulnerable women, newborns, and children except that which MFH’s Community Health Workers (CHWs) provide, often risking their lives to do so. Others have fled with their families to seek sanctuary at hospitals and health centers run by the Sisters and supported by MFH. Hundreds of families are camped on the grounds and resources are stretched beyond their limits. Even families who remain at home are unable to travel or safely carry out their farming and other livelihood activities, compounding the food insecurity and malnutrition.

The danger and instability of the current situation cannot be overstated. Our Catholic Sister partners are caught between two aggressive factions: the government, who accuses them of supporting separatist groups because they treat sick and wounded people irrespective of their affiliation; and the separatist groups, who accuse them of working with the government because the Catholic Church increasingly advocates dialogue. Hospitals face retaliation if found treating gunshot victims as that is considered taking sides. Vehicles and other material properties of the Sisters have been confiscated and burnt. MFH’s own staff and their families have also been severely affected.

Our Response

To combat this emergency, MFH has expanded across all 5 Dioceses in the North West and South West, and we have provided lifesaving aid to families displaced by the ongoing violence. More than 6,950 families (approximately 34,750 people) in the two regions have received food, non-

food items, delivery kits, and transportation to and from clinics for pregnant women. Additionally, MFH increased support to CHWs this year by providing significant material assistance (such as clothing, rain coats, rain boots, and essential medical supplies like birthing kits to assist with delivery for mothers living in the forest).

We have continued to provide special training to the CHWs as security conditions have allowed. CHWs are working well beyond their initial scope of work, often risking their own lives (many able-bodied men are shot on sight by government troops who automatically assume they are separatists) to reach households whose family members can’t access health services. CHWs travel deep into local forests to find people hiding from the violence. There has been a 42% increase in the average number of visits provided by each CHW from last year. For many people living in the area – whether in the forests or in their own homes – our CHWs are currently the only option for healthcare.

If you would like to donate to help us continue to provide healthcare and necessities for displaced people in Cameroon, please click here.

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