Medicines for Humanity Continues to Respond to Child Mortality Rates in Cameroon Despite Ongoing Challenges
Cameroon’s North West region is entering the fifth year of a violent and devastating conflict that has shredded the stability, safety, and health of people living in the area. Families have witnessed unspeakable acts of violence, including the burning and destruction of buildings and entire villages, disappearances and kidnappings of family members and neighbors, and the destruction of their homes and livelihoods. Those who can escape seek refuge in the forests or neighboring countries, often with little to no food, water, healthcare access, or money. The number of displaced people in Cameroon continues to increase exponentially. To date, the crisis has uprooted more than 1.1 million people, the majority of which are women and children.
Medicines for Humanity (MFH) is one of a handful of NGOs currently operating in the rural areas of the North West, and one of even fewer to respond with substantial emergency programming and support from the beginning of the crisis. MFH has increased emergency response for the growing needs of displaced and vulnerable mothers and children. We have consistently maintained our focus on the utilization of evidence-based maternal and child health (MCH) interventions and increasing access to lifesaving healthcare, food and non-food items for internally displaced people (IDPs). We continue to recruit, train, support, and mentor Community Health Workers (CHWs), who are crucial to reaching and helping families who are disregarded and marginalized. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, MFH was the first organization to respond in these communities with COVID-19 support and programming.
The ongoing instability in Cameroon has brutally worsened MCH outcomes, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the already life-threatening situation for these children and their mothers. Most public health facilities are no longer functioning, and many private facilities have also closed. The health facilities that are active operate with minimal resources and limited medical supplies and equipment. The lack of available health services is contributing to the spread of diseases such as cholera, polio and measles, which are affecting children. Limited COVID-19 community education, combined with disinformation, myths and misconceptions, has resulted in extreme vaccine hesitancy. As the threat from COVID-19 continues, and the insecurity and violence in this region persists, the plight of hundreds of thousands of IDPs remains grave.
To maximize our reach to the growing number of IDPs and people affected by the ongoing humanitarian crisis, MFH aims to have 240 fully trained CHWs providing health education and services throughout the target communities in Shisong and Njinikom. In these devastated areas, CHWs are at the heart of effective health care services because they seek out and identify the most vulnerable families, inform and encourage care givers, provide preventive health education, monitor health, and make referrals as needed. Unfortunately, however, the ongoing insecurity continues to cause CHW turnover. Despite this, MFH currently has 218 active CHWs working throughout project sites in the North West, and we are in the process of recruiting and training 22 more. All CHWs receive the standard CHW training as mandated by Cameroon’s Ministry of Health (MoH), which includes modules on Humanitarian Principles and Safety and Security in the implementation of Community Directed Interventions (CDIs) in Humanitarian Context. Additionally, they receive a specialized training by MFH that enables the CHWs to assist internally displaced expecting mothers to safely deliver their babies; training on trauma care and psychosocial support; and an MFH designed training on COVID-19 prevention, treatment and response measures. MFH also provided COVID-19 job aids to the CHWs.
MFH CHWs continued to track down displaced individuals and families and distributed lifesaving food and non-food items, like soap, buckets with taps, sanitizers and masks. Despite the travel challenges, CHWs courageously reached more than 3,350 people in the target communities last year.
CHW visits have a vital positive impact on disease prevention, healthy behavior adoption, and access to care. Despite the insecurity in the area and the limitations COVID-19 placed on the CHWs, they rose above these obstacles and exceeded last year’s numbers, making a total of 46,324 home visits during the first 9 months of 2021 alone. This is a remarkable 63% increase over the previous year’s number of 29,040 home visits.
Although the challenges to provide life-saving maternal and child healthcare continue to mount, Medicines for Humanity and our in-country partners of Congregations of Catholic Sisters continue to meet those challenges.
This Bicycle Ambulance is Turning Heads and Saving Lives
Human beings are creative, resourceful, and clever, especially when faced with a problem to solve. In rural Cameroon, where basic motor travel can be a challenge and costly, getting people to a local clinic or hospital several miles away can sometimes seem daunting. Enter the bicycle ambulance, a nifty assemblage consisting of a carrier large enough to carry a patient for miles attached to a sturdy bike frame. Thanks to donations that have been made to two of our project sites in Sabongari and Ako, this ambulance has become a life saver, especially for pregnant women in remote areas and especially during the crisis when no car is allowed to move.
She’s only 8, but she’s been making a difference as a Medicines for Humanity (MFH) supporter for three years. It started right before her 6th birthday when her parents introduced her to MFH and its mission. Wise beyond her years, Cailey was immediately drawn to the plight of children around the world whose lives are threatened by illnesses that are preventable and she felt compelled to help. Without hesitation, she announced that at her upcoming birthday party, she would ask friends and relatives to donate to MFH instead of spending that money on presents for her. That was remarkable generosity and compassion by a 5-year-old about to turn 6.
This past holiday season, Cailey displayed her entrepreneurial talents and created a fundraising effort for MFH that raised more than $1,500 in a single week! Her idea was simple: bake cookies and sell them in person going door-to-door in her neighborhood and online to friends and relatives. What she accomplished was not only sweet success, but much needed funding to help MFH child survival projects around the world save children’s lives. Thank you Cailey, you are truly an inspiration!
MFH Launches New E-Learning Experience for Sisters to Impact Maternal and Child Mortality Rates in Developing Countries
Medicines for Humanity has launched Learning for Humanity (L4H), a customized, online learning experience created for Catholic Sisters around the world that supports their efforts to save the lives of children and their mothers by building their knowledge, skills, and capacity. In many places, Sisters are the communities’ only source of essential health services. They are champions for maternal and child health care, and their devotion and commitment to providing life-saving services do not waiver. To effectively reduce child and maternal mortality, Sisters in remote areas of the world need access to critical skills development, updated knowledge and data, and continuing education. Medicines for Humanity (MFH) created Learning for Humanity as a social enterprise to address the need for training and mentoring Sisters in remote communities worldwide. Registration is open online. The first course will be Healthcare Management and will commence in late February.
Learning for Humanity is a cooperative, interactive, user-friendly, and self-paced online learning experience that leads to transformative results. Learning for Humanity is accessible from the Internet using laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. The curriculum utilizes participatory learning, interactive activities and written and visual modalities to build proficient, competent and knowledgeable abilities and allow immediate practical application of skills and mentoring in their workspace. Content is synergistic, fused with live sessions, webinars, videos, animations, and activities. Courses encourage collaboration and teamwork with other learners through discussion boards, chat rooms, and capstone projects.
The platform also offers the Learning for Humanity Community Center - an online space for Sisters to connect, communicate and collaborate with other Sisters around the globe! L4H provides this first-of-its-kind platform that includes the opportunity for Sisters and Communities of Catholic Women Religious around the world to link up with each other in real time to talk, network and share learnings and best practices. This fosters camaraderie and new partnerships that were not as easy to achieve before.
For more information about course content and registration, please click here.