Check out Global Voices' special coverage of global impact of COVID-19.
On March 6, Cameroon recorded its first case of the highly contagious new coronavirus caused by COVID-19: a French citizen who arrived in the country of France.
As of April 9, the number increased to 730 people, 60 have recovered and 10 have died. Cameroon has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in West Africa.
Cameroon closed its borders and banned the gatherings of more than 50 people on March 17 for 15 days and extended it after a few days. However, there is concern about how the virus is being approached with relative nonchalance, with a worn-out healthcare system and a separatist war along its western border.
‘Coronavirus is for whites’
In the central business district of Yaoundé, the capital, a giant LED board appears with the words: “If you are sick, stay home and wear a surgical mask when you are with other people.” That message does not seem to have pleased the citizens of Yaoundé.
“We learn of many deaths in Italy and Spain,” Abel Mbock, a street vendor from Yaoundé told Global Voices on March 29. “But it is not serious here because people walk freely on the streets and do what they want. I think our hospitals are stronger, “he said.
Meanwhile, Marou Souaibou, who was sitting in a local café, still knew nothing of the seriousness of COVID-19. “The coronation virus is for white people. I'm not interested in any way because here in Africa, our immune system is stronger than that, ”he told Global Voices on March 29.
Conversely, those who came to Cameroon from highly infected countries are reported to have slept with sex workers in their quarantine center, while others have evaded the isolation process – acts the government has blamed for the increased number. of cases.
However, most have begun to adapt to the reality of the virus as the number of cases and deaths increases in Cameroon:
CAMEROON has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in West and Central Africa. What really happened? Is it due to Administrative recklessness? Failure to close the borders on time? Refusal to Lockdown? Failure to test the high and mighty who came from abroad? We shall conquer! pic.twitter.com/o5vP2x3K07
– Agbor Nkongho (@AgborNkonghoF) April 5, 2020
CAMEROON has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in West and Central Africa. What really happened Is it due to administrative recklessness? Did I fail to close the borders in time? Denial of closure? Did I fail to test tall and powerful who came from abroad? We will conquer!
Separatist war in English-speaking regions
The South Cameroon Defense Force (SOCADEF), one of the groups fighting for independence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, accepted a call to the United Nations ceasefire for people to undergo tests for the coronavirus.
In a March 25 statement, SOCADEF, led by Dr. Ebenezer Akwanga, said it recognized the “urgent appeal by the United Nations to allow concerted global action against the impending coronavirus pandemic.”
The 14-day suspension of hostilities began on Sunday, March 29.
Although other rebel groups have not considered Antonio Guterres' call, human rights lawyer Agbor Felix Nkongho told Global Voices on March 26 that it was a positive gesture by SOCADEF.
“I think that if you are really fighting for the interest of a people, now that we have a pandemic, it will be necessary to find a way for the people to be tested or to avoid spreading (the virus),” said lawyer Nkongho for phone.
“People cannot be without alcohol gel, soap and water. I think a ceasefire is best now. “
Weakened health system
On January 21, 2020, the United Nations reported that 679,000 people have fled their villages and urgently need medical attention, as more than 40% of health centers have closed due to violence in the affected regions.
On March 24, Global Voices spoke to Dr. Ebongo Zacchaeus, the region's chief health officer, who confirmed that three people had already tested positive in the southwest region, one of the conflict regions. As of April 9, the number was four in that region alone.
Dr. Ebongo also said that coronavirus test samples can only be confirmed in Yaoundé, where there is a suitable testing center.
“We have to send (the evidence) to Yaoundé, that is the norm now. The whole country has to send (evidence) to Yaoundé, ”Dr. Ebongo told Global Voices.
The government said it will create other testing centers in Douala and Bafoussam, cities that have patients with COVID-19, but fear that the spread will not give them the opportunity to do so.
Authorities in the southwest region have banned people from sitting in restaurants and drinking places in an attempt to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This, along with the curfew at 6 p.m. Across the country, it has caused many in the informal sector to lose their income.
Ngando Boris is a waiter at Buea, the regional headquarters for the Southwest region.
“I haven't received a salary in a month, since the government prohibited the opening of public places from 6 p.m. Our employer sent us home because we cannot work at night. I can only cope with what I have saved, ”he told Global Voices by phone on April 4.
“After the (separatist) crisis, now it is the coronavirus. It is worse!”.