Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An English Doctor looks at Health issues in Akwaya, Cameroon

Bees Abroad work to alleviate poverty through beekeeping in developing countries.  Therefore our work in Cameroon centres around teaching people how to keep bees and working to support them to become successful beekeepers.  We were invited to assist in the area of Akwaya, South West Cameroon by Forudef a local NGO set up to assist in rural development.  

Dr Gill Johnson
Having done a one day visit last year into the rainforest area to the village of Ote 53 miles from the nearest town and outside the area of mobile phone signal, electiricty or services, we had established that there were other needs within the area before beekeeping could make an impact. The major issues were around health, sanitation and nutrition.Therefore Brian Durk, the project leader for Cameroon, persuaded a Gloucester GP (General Medical Practitioner) from the UK, Gill Johnson, who is also a bee keeper, to come along and advise us.

On our first visit we noted the scattered nature of the settlement of the village of Ote.  The upper village was the largest quarter near the crossing point where vehicles could cross the river, the second quarter near and around the chief's house is about a mile from the upper quarter, and a third, but very small quarter lay across the river and it is impossible to cross to the main village quarters when the river is in flood. The village quarters do not have any running water, and all water is drawn from streams feeding the main river or from the river itself.  People also bathe and wash their clothes in the river.  There is no sanitation including latrines and there is no designated toilet area.  Therefore people just go to the toilet in 'the bush' and most of the children choose to use the river banks.  This is clearly not a good practice and we feared for water borne  pathogens and the likelihood of disease.

We observed that the children did not appear to be particularly underweight but many had enlarged pot bellies which we took to be a sign of malnutrition of some sort.  Therefore we were interested in Gill's assessment of the health situation on this year's visit.

She held a clinic and worked non-stop on the first day to get through the huge queues that had formed by 7 am.  People were dressed in their best clothes and came and waited patiently to be seen.  Benches made of bamboo were brought from other parts of the village to accommodate the numbers.  Mostly the first day was women and children.

The older man on the right is the village medicine man.  He an Gill met as colleagues
The next day older men started to come along with a few older women.  Only on the final day, in a rush at the last minute a number of younger men joined the crowd who attended.  They all patiently resigned themselves to waiting their turn, and each was seen by the doctor. After 3 days this is Dr Gill Johnson's report:

'A group of local people gathered early the first morning in Ote. Word had spread that an English doctor was coming. I had a makeshift consulting room in Moses' relatives' house, where I used some basic equipment and dispensed from a bagful drugs brought from home. Dickson, Moses' relative, acted as interpreter and I saw 68 patients the first day, working up to 8pm when consultations were by kerosene lamp and torchlight. I saw many adults with back pain related to their heavy work, pregnant women, three children with deformities, and recorded a significant proportion of children with stunted growth. Access to health care is very limited; the nearest health centre is a 24 miles walk away.

Gill seeing a patient in her consulting room.  Diskson our translater  is in the foreground

No comments: