The Humanitarian Coordinator of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Cameroon, Mr. Matthias Z. Naab has condemned a February 26 attack on a medical convoy of the Cameroon Baptist Convention.
The attack that took place at a checkpoint around Mile 90 Nsongwa in the outskirts of Bamenda left a nurse dead, and a doctor and one other nurse seriously wounded.
“This is inadmissible. Health workers must be protected so they can continue to save lives. The provision of health services is a priority of the humanitarian response in the region. Health services and facilities must remain functional, safe, and accessible to people who need essential medical services,” said Mr. Naab.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the UN official says it was carried out by members of a non-state armed group.
He expressed deepest condolences on behalf of the humanitarian community to the family of the victim and wished a speedy recovery to the two injured staff.
The healthcare sector and healthcare professionals have been paying a disproportionate price in the crisis rocking the Former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons.
Paul Tasong, the man government has charged with rebuilding the region said that “in 2016 we had some 170 doctors in the hospitals and health centers. By 2019, that situation fell to 71 doctors, and the specialists became very rare.”
He said this resulted in more women giving birth at home, with the number rising from 2% in 2016 before the onset of the war, to 9% by 2019.
“This is catastrophic. The same situation is reflected in the rate of vaccinations in the two regions where it became almost impossible for the vaccination teams to reach out to the populations. The figures in terms of vaccinations are disastrous,” he added.
Officials say vaccination coverage dropped from 90% at the onset of the war to just 47% in 2019.
More than 700,000 internally displaced persons have been denied access to health care services, 52 percent of them women, according to UNICEF.
Medical practitioner, Nick Ngwanyam says it’s a worrying situation.
“Healthcare delivery needs an atmosphere of peace and security to be successful. When there is violence, kidnappings, killings, then everything kind of collapses under the weight of such violence. And the healthcare services are suffering just as much as any other sector. It’s even worse because these healthcare services have to be available to the people, all the time, day, and night. People must be able to travel to the hospital when they are sick,” Dr. Ngwanyam stated.
Very often, the government blames separatist fighters for making it harder for healthcare workers to perform their duties, but the Spokesman for the Ambazonian Governing Council, Raymond Akoson says his militia respects the rights of individuals to adequate healthcare, even in times of crisis.
“My office is in constant communication with Human Rights and Humanitarian Services organizations such as Red Cross, Human Rights Watch, United Nations Field Missions, and name them. We are already providing access to these specialized agencies, and we must underline that access is granted after prior authorization. Besides the support these organizations provide to our vulnerable populations, we are at the stage of stabilizing control of areas that the Ambazonia Defense Forces, the ADF has liberated. They are currently recruiting nurses to do mobile nursing services deep into the hinterlands to help distribute health services to those who cannot get one at this time,” Akoson told Timescape Magazine.
The ongoing armed conflict recently referred to as a genocide by some British MPs, has so far claimed over 4,000 lives according to the UN, though some local sources put the figure at over 12,000.