Doctors Without Borders winds up in West Cameroon following government suspension

CAMEROON – Doctors Without Borders (MSF), have withdrawn their health care services in Cameroon following government suspension for eight months.

Cameroonian authorities have accused the aid group of helping separatist groups in the country’s English-speaking northwest region, a charge the group has strongly denied.

Laura Martinelli, MSF’s coordinator for the northwest region, where thousands of people need health care access, said MSF had seen no signs of the Cameroon government’s authorization for the group to resume its activities.

Martinelli said MSF would be ready to resume activities when Cameroonian authorities lift the suspension.

She said the MSF presence was vital because the aid group was one of the few international medical organizations offering free care for people in need, providing 24-hour ambulance services to civilians in the northwest region.

Kennedy Tumenta, coordinator of the Integrated Mental Health Care for Humanity in Babungo, a village in Cameroon’s English-speaking northwest, said the center provides psychological care to civilians whom MSF treats.

In June, Cameroon’s health ministry reported that nearly 30% of hospitals in the northwest region were no longer functioning because separatist attacks, and that hundreds of health workers had fled to French-speaking towns for safety.

Cyrille Etoga, a health analyst at the University of Yaounde, said Cameroon should know how to distinguish between the activities of a reputable international organization and groups that may be collaborating with separatists.

Etoga said Cameroon needs the assistance of organizations like MSF to meet the growing health needs of its citizens in conflict zones.

MSF says more than 1.4 million people in Cameroon’s restive western regions need humanitarian support, where access to health care is extremely limited.

The separatist crisis that began in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions in 2017 has killed more than 3,000 people and displaced 750,000, both internally and to neighboring Nigeria, according to the U.N.

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