Despite multiple challenges, CBCHB and partners are well on course towards achieving HIV epidemic control in CDC/PEPFAR Project Zone I
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Cameroon’s Country Director – Doctor Emily Kainne Dokubo and team paid a working visit to CBCHB – lead implementer of CDC/PEPFAR project in Zone I and partners (FHI 360 and CHP). This maiden visit of Dr. Emily to the implementation zone (September 21-22) aimed at making an on-the-ground appraisal of the quality of HIV related services offered in the 76 CDC/PEPFAR supported sites Zone I.
The working visit began with a performance review meeting held at HIV-Free West Regional Office in the presence of the project’s senior management team members led by the PI, Prof. Tih Pius and the sub-award partners FHI360 and CHP. During this meeting, power point presentations were made by Senior Management team members to give the visiting CDC team a full view of the project progress, successes and challenges.
Dr. Albert Bakor, the HIV-Free Project Technical Director (TD) gave the kicker presentation in which he traced the evolution of HIV response in all three regions that make up Zone I. Using compelling data and comparative analysis, the TD showed how close CBCHB has come to moving the West region to epidemic control and also how the project is able to navigate through the many challenges posed by the protracting armed conflict in the NW and SW to ensure increased access, uptake and improved quality of HIV services by the populations. He outlined the multitude of evidenced based strategies the project has employed to ensure rapid case identification; effective linkages; early initiation and follow up to optimize treatment outcome and achieve viral suppression. The TD also used the opportunity to make a strong case in favor of the IDP sub-award highlighting how the use of advanced community (surge) strategies under this award significantly contributed to achieving most indicators under the main project.
Doctors Atanga and Tumassang equally made succinct presentations to show the impact of the dual crises; the socio-political and Covid-19, respectively, on Zone I project scope and schedule. From Dr. Atanga’s graphic presentation, the CDC team could appraise the impact of the ongoing socio-political crisis on project implementation in the NW and SW regions. Besides routine and prolonged ghost towns, lockdowns and roadblocks which systematically slowdown project implementation, project staff also face daily risks of kidnap for ransom and various forms of harassment. Till date, several staff have been victim and this has greatly affected their moral.
In a separate presentation, Dr. Tumassang shared with the CDC-Team the impact of the outbreak and spread of Covid-19 pandemic across on project implementation. She began by showing how the CBCHB structured itself, developed tools and built capacities of its teams to ensure an effective Covid-19 response within its huge network of health facilities. Dr. Tumassang showed data of health personnel at project sites and project staff screened with Covid-19 and treated.
The discussion slot which followed the presentations was equally a very enriching moment. CDC-staff either supplemented points made, asked questions for clarifications or made proposals for improvement in some areas. After close to forty minutes of a satisfactory exchange, the CDC-Cameroon Country Director took the floor to applaud CBCHB and partners for their great strides. Dr. Emily encouraged the team to “continue to do what is right”. As CBCHB prepares to start implementing COP20, she called on the team to work harder to meet up with the backlog from COP19.
“My expectations from CBCHB are high and I am confident they can do it” Dr. Emily concluded.
“We are used to working in hard conditions and we will keep on working” were the opening words from Prof. Tih, PI of the CDC/PEPFAR Project Zone I. Prof. Tih expressed appreciation of his team to the CDC-Cameroon Country Director and entourage who despite the security alerts, braved the odds to visit the project Zone. He pledged the commitment of his team to work even harder to make sure the first region to reach epidemic control comes from Zone I.
Day one presentation and discussions gave the visiting team a bird’s view of the project in Zone I, key accomplishments, success stories and also challenges.
On September 22, CBCHB and CDC began their field visit with first stop at the West Regional delegation of public health where they were received by the RDPH – Dr. Chinmoun Douada and the RTG Coordinator Dr. Kouamen T. Gael. The delegation showed the positive impact of the HIV-Free Project on HIV response in the region highlighting the capacity building efforts and efforts to improve the quality and uptake of HIV services across the region.
This brief meeting was then proceeded by a guided tour of the Bafoussam Regional Hospital. Field visits were opportunities for the Country Director and her team to match reports with field realities, meet and encourage those frontline healthcare workers and various other stakeholders who are helping to write this beautiful success story in Zone I.
At the end of her visit to Zone I, the CDC –Country Director visibly satisfied with the level of accomplishments. She encouraged CBCHB and partners to continue working hard despite the multiple challenges faced until they achieve epidemic control.