Dr Omotayo Bolu, the Cameroon Country Director for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has referred to Cameroon as one of the countries with much achievement as far as the Local Capacity Initiative project is concerned, an example that can be emulated and replicated in other countries implementing the same project. Her appreciation of this project took place during the launching of the Policy Advocacy Strategic Plan of the project in Bamenda April, 2016. She also took time to commend the work of dialogue structures who have proven that communities that care can make a difference in the health and life of their own people. ‘’When communities are used we can make a difference in the life of that single mother who comes to our hospital who might normally not have services; but because you come together as a dialogue structure -the Mayors, the Chiefs, religious authorities and leaders in the community’’ much valued services are rendered.
Revisiting the genesis of the LCI project, Dr Omotayo noted that Cameroon was one of the 10 countries selected to implement this Initiative through the CBC Health Board. In a two year implementation period, the LCI has worked and put in place a robust system of health care that is boosting the uptake of Ante Natal Care (ANC) and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission of HIV ((PMTCT) services in ten health Districts of the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon. Since the start of the project, dialogue structures in the districts of Benakuma, Ako, Tubah, Mbengwi, Bafut in the NWR and those of Konye, Bangem, Ekondo Titi, Eyumojouk and Wabane in the SWR are now taking an active part in leading, supporting, co-financing and co-managing health care programs in their respective health districts. She has remarked her confidence on the dialogue structures to take control and ownership of their healthcare in these communities when PEPFAR’s funding finally runs out.
In his launching speech, the Governor of the Northwest Region H.E Adolphe Lele L’Afrique Choffo Deben appreciated the CBCHB for being a technical leader and key partner to the state in matters of health in the country. The Governor took off time as the people’s representative in the Northwest region and Cameroon as a whole to thank the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their profitable partnership through this project to improve Cameroon’s health system as a whole. Judging from the initial successes of the project, he has expressed hopes for the project to be scaled up to other districts and regions of Cameroon, noting at the same time that the LCI objectives tie with the Cameroon president’s vision 2035 of decentralizing the health sector ‘‘it is evident that this plan is congruent with the health sector policy framework No. 96 / 03 of January 4, 1996 which decentralizes public health interventions with the Health District as the operational unit. As you all know, our (national) health policy seeks to improve the health status of the populations by increasing universal access to quality integrated health care with the full participation of communities in the management and financing of health activities. This shows how important dialogue structures are in the architecture of the health system in Cameroon’’.
To the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project Prof Tih Pius Muffih, the Policy Advocacy Strategic Plan is very vital because:
1. It touches on one of the key problems affecting the health system in Cameroon- which is weak community support and participation in health activities in line with the country’s Policy on the Reorientation of Primary healthcare.
2. It provides clear orientation on how to revitalize and strengthen dialogue structures to fully play their role in line with the national guideline laying down the functioning of dialogue structures in Cameroon.
3. It re-launches the debate on the importance of the dialogue structure in our country’s health system and stimulates local partnership and collaboration between dialogue structures, councils and other key stakeholders to increase healthcare support following the ongoing framework on decentralization in Cameroon.
Joining his voice to that of the Chief launcher of the project the Governor, the PI once more expressed gratitude to the funders CDC/PEPFAR and also to Family Health International 360 (FHi 360) for their technical support to see this dream come true.
Since the start of the HIV-Free NW/SW project in 2011, there has been remarkable improvement in increased access to services, increase in staff knowledge/skills, a systematic drop in HIV transmission rate from positive mothers to their babies, and a reduction in HIV infection in general. The local capacity Initiative being a subcomponent of this project and born out of the desire to increase ANC attendance has also recorded great strides in this domain. It is hoped that by the end of the project in 2017, all objectives would have been met and community health enhanced.