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Cameroon: Thousands at risk as Doctors Without Borders Withdraws from the North West .

August 4, 2021

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

MSF-DWB Personnel have been one of the only international humanitarian organization operating in the troubled region

The international humanitarian organization Doctors without Borders (DWB/MSF) is pulling out its team from the North West Region after the Cameroon authorities have refused to suspend the ban placed on the organization, a ban that has been in place since December last year.

Doctors Without Borders is taking this drastic step after talks with the government have yet to bear fruits. The organization despite withdrawing from the Region still plans to “keep a small liaison office in Bamenda, the regional capital, to continue our dialogue with the authorities.” 

“We cannot stay any longer in a region where we are not allowed to provide care to people here,” says Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF’s operations coordinator for Central Africa in a communiqué sent out by the organization.

“Unfortunately, we cannot keep our staff on standby any longer, so we have no choice but to withdraw our teams. However, we will keep a small liaison office in Bamenda, the regional capital, to continue our dialogue with the authorities.” 

“This suspension significantly reduces access to medical services in an area where communities are badly affected by armed violence,” Lampaert continues. “We hope that the provision of medical humanitarian assistance to everyone, without distinction, will still be possible. The people are paying a very heavy price for this situation. If the authorities decide to lift our suspension, we will resume our medical activities as soon as possible.” 

On December 8, 2020, MSF was suspended from working in the North-West region as Cameroonian authorities accused the NGO of being too close to non-state armed groups in the area. Despite months of discussions to respond to these allegations, MSF has been unable to restart its operations, leaving tens of thousands of people without access to lifesaving free healthcare.

For the past four years, violence has been going on in the two English-speaking regions of the country as separatist fighters look to establish a state of their own. This has resulted in many being killed, maimed, others kidnapped for ransom and many fleeing their villages or areas of residence.

_Each year, thousands of patients benefited from our support in a region where access to care has been reduced by armed violence in the North West. Pic credit DWB

Since the ongoing crisis in the country’s North West and South West Regions degenerated, Doctors without Borders has been the few international NGO offering free medical care to communities in the North West, DWB reported.

The emergency medical humanitarian organization is thus appealing to other organization to step up and continue providing life-saving assistance that is badly needed by the population in the area.

According to the latest UN figures, the flare-up of violence in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon has pushed more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, while over 60,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria. Today, people’s living conditions are massively affected by the crisis and over 1.4 million people are considered in need of humanitarian support in North West and South West Cameroon.

“It is essential that other organisations step in to provide additional support to the Ministry of Health to ensure the provision of care for vulnerable people,” Emmanuel Lampaert added. “This must be done with absolute respect for health facilities, staff and patients.”

The socio-political crisis that has seen many displaced has equally extended to health personnel who continue to be accused by both parties of the conflict of taking sides something the organization has strongly denied.

“Since 2018, we have witnessed numerous attacks and acts of intimidation against healthcare facilities, and MSF was not spared from this. While we are now forced to withdraw our teams, we call on all parties to the crisis to respect healthcare providers, whether they are members of non-governmental organisations or the Ministry of Health. Any threats or violence against them or their patients is unacceptable, Emmanuel Lampaert concluded”

According to the latest UN figures, the flare-up of violence in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon has pushed more than 700,000 people to flee their homes, while over 60,000 have fled to neighbouring Nigeria. Today, people’s living conditions are massively affected by the crisis and over 1.4 million people are considered in need of humanitarian support in North West and South West Cameroon.

MSF Officials Providing support to an injured

According to the organization, until the suspension of its operations on 8 December 2020, the staff of DWB in the North West came to the assistance of 180 survivors of sexual violence, provided 1,725 mental health consultations, performed 3,272 surgeries, and transported 4,407 patients by ambulance, more than 1,000 of whom were women about to give birth.

With the crisis showing no signs of concluding any time soon, the loss of Doctors Without Borders in the North West Region is expected to be felt by the population in the coming months. It is hoped by many that the government will uplift the ban soon so the organization can continue providing the much-needed health assistance.

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