“Everybody in my community concluded that my child was as good as dead and advised me to stay home to wait for him to breathe his last. After all, it won’t be long before it happens.” These are the words of visibly strained Fatima, a single mother of three from Mayo Binkar, a rural community in Ndu Subdivision in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Before the armed conflict, this 32-year-old woman who looks twice her age lived from subsistence farming. With the onset of the armed conflict, daily confrontations made it impossible for the family to continue to live in the community. As a result, they sought refuge in nearby bushes, leaving behind food and other basic necessities. Extreme poverty, hunger and all manner of diseases quickly kicked in as the displaced community members could no longer farm nor lead normal lives.
Buhari at Discharge, 62 Days After Admission
It is in these extremely difficult conditions that four-year-old Mohamadou Buhari, the third among Fatima’s children developed recurrent diseases. Being unable to take her beloved son to the hospital for proper checkup, Fatima started visiting herbalists, who did their best but couldn’t improve the depreciating condition of the child. Tired of hearing that her son was bewitched and seeing him waste away on a daily basis, Fatima decided to take him to a Moslem womens group in Nkambe to seek help. “I cannot describe the look on the women’s faces when they saw my son. While crying unconsolably, the leader of the group said what they used to see on TV in faraway countries is now happening in their community”. The women contributed 8.000 FCFA to enable Fatima go to the hospital for preliminary checks.
At a Health Centre in Nkambe, she met with the Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services/UNICEF Community agent who diagnosed the child as suffering from chronic malnutrition. She referred Mohamadou to Ndu Baptist Health Centre where the presence of a resident doctor could be the game changer. With no money left, Fatima made up her mind to take her child home to spare him further complications due to travel on bad and insecure roads with two other underage children she couldn’t leave behind. Fortunately for her, funds were made available by the Comprehensive Child Response Project (CCR) to take care of Mohamadou. In Ndu Baptist Health Centre, the diagnosis of chronic severe acute malnutrition was maintained while it was discovered that the situation has led to the loss of multiple brain functions, visual impairment, malaria, hearing impairment, lower and upper limb deformities (Clubbing), inability to sit, stand or walk, micronutrients deficiency and constipation.
After three months of compassionate care at the health centre, a new Mohamadou emerged from the cocoon, ready to leave the hospital and face life. “I can never repay UNICEF and CBC; I’m eternally grateful to them;” Fatima sobs softly as she prepares to leave the health centre. “I’m going home a different woman; I came here believing that my son will die immediately they give him an injection. My ignorance has been cleansed. Today, I go home to help change the perspectives of my community members on health issues”, a resolute Fatima declares with a look of determination on her face.
By Vivian Maku