By Caroline NAMONDO and By Delphine FRI
In most underserved communities in Cameroon, basic healthcare is considered a luxury only few can afford. This explains why most people in such communities go to health facilities only when they are at the verge of dying. This habit has increased the spread of transmissible diseases in such communities; hence an increased in death rate. Even treatable infections sometimes end up killing such dwellers who cannot afford basic healthcare. It was from this backdrop that the Local Capacity Initiative (LCI) Project in 2016 initiated outreach activities as one of its project strategies. This strategy was intended to take quality healthcare at affordable cost closer to the people in LCI underprivileged communities.
Muambong Integrated Health Centre is one of the health facilities supported financially by the LCI Project to carryout outreach activities in their 6 catchment areas. To ensure the success of this strategy, Dialogue Structure Members trained by the LCI team headed the activities together with the American Peace Corps and other health centre staff. These outreach activities extended to communities like Muake Yamba, Ngomin amongst others. The outreach package included registration of ANC1 and other ANC services, family planning, general consultation, Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) and vaccination.
It was during one of such outreach campaigns to Ngomin that the team consulted Ms Severine; who was suffering from a protracted stomach ache. Prior to this visit, Severine had been living on“Pain Killer Tablets” for over two years. Due to limited finances, her family could not raise money for her transportation and medical bills at the District Hospital Bangem for proper consultation and treatment. Such financial constraints only succeeded to keep her on pain killers so as to relief her from the excruciating pains.
“Every time the pains come, I will cry all night. Hence my parents too won’t be able to sleep at all. I sometimes stayed home for over a week without going to school. I couldn’t even help my poor mother in the farm.” 19 year old Severine explained her ordeals.
When Ms. Severine complained to the medical personnel, the latter suspected the pain to be appendicitis. She was then booked for a surgery among several surgical cases diagnosed in the field minimal costs. Thanks to the cordial dialogue with the District Medical Officer (DMO) for Bangem; surgical procedures were conducted at Muambong Integrated Health Centre, beginning April 2017. Severine was one of the beneficiaries.
“At last, I was relieved of my pain at an affordable cost; at a facility not far from home. I no longer feel the on and off pain, and my classes are not disturbed due to any pain. I can go to the farm now; which is our main source of livelihood. I wish to plead that the health centre should continue with these outreach activities so that more people like me will be saved.”
Thanks to this initiative, surgical services were incorporated into the package offered at the Muambong Integrated health centre as from April 2017. From date of inception to January 2018, a total of 68 persons have been operated upon at Muambong Integrated Health Centre (IHC); (25 major and 43 minor surgeries). More than 50% of the cases are from the communities where outreach was carried out.
The outreach strategy is therefore a vital tool used in increasing health services uptake in hard to reach communities. With the high level of awareness and the availability of surgical services, community members who could not access surgical services due to long distances and cost of procedure can now access such services at Muambong Integrated Health Centre. Surgery enhances
ANC services as clients with conditions needing surgery can comfortably be taken care of at the health centre.