Friday 20th December I summoned the courage to go back!
Over a year ago me and my family relocated from Buea to Douala for the fear of the unknown. Then I was about 4months pregnant. The incident presiding our decision to move was an "operation run" that took place one unfortunate morning. I went to see off my Dad who had come visiting me for the first time since I got married. We boarded a taxi for him to mile 17 accompanied by my big brother. That morning Samuela had insisted to follow me see off "grand pere " as she calls him. Upon our return, she demanded for biscuits, you know how kids are lol. As we were about making a U turn to go get her some biscuits, behold "operation run for your life" every soul we saw were running hapharzardly back into the quarters from the main entrance. Apparently, there was a shoot out down town between separatist and government forces. Pregnant me I was confused, I grabbed my Sammy by the arm and we started running but she could not run at my pace, so I carried her in my arms. I looked ahead and behold the steep hill we had to climb to make our way home. My strength immediately left me. Sudden cramps gripped my lower abdomen. I was about 4 months pregnant . that had been diagnosed by a certain hospital in Buea to be "etopic"! Gasping desperately to keep up with my breathe, I jumped into one mama's house by the road side who quickly blocked the door behind us and told me to calm down. She was a cheerful - looking white - haired woman with a comforting smile. Not long calm returned. We thanked mama hurried off home.
On getting home, my Dad, big brother shortly followed by my husband all found themselves back home. They had been very worried for us. Till date, Buea has had many more of such shoot outs and runs and even mass migrations especially by families around the outskirts. The crisis is still far from resolved.
We actually moved to Douala for calm and safety, given my vulnerable situation then. Hubby had to stay and keep his job, though.
My mind has been through a lot since that day! For instance every night in my sleep I was killed by either of the armed groups, blood shed and bombing. The nightmares continued for months, insomnia visited, anxiety and depression was the order of my everyday. I could no longer leave in fear of the unknown, fear of being shot, fear of our house burnt down, fear of my families safety.
The first two months in Douala was seasoned by provocation on provocation with the famous line "les Bamenda" used on us by the local indigents. In the public market, especially, the stigma was obvious. It took us time to reintegrate and today we are still barely coping and doing all we can to survive both in body and mind. Mental health really counts
Imagine that since I left I only summoned the courage to go back on Friday? Our graduation ceremony was scheduled for the 20th but I kept telling my self I am not sure I want to go back now. Late early last week I told my husband I will go! Yes, it took me 2 weeks to make that decision. Today I am happy I went back. The fanfare at the graduation ceremony had in it nostalgia of a once peaceful town. Peace is still possible! The town was calm than the usual, very evident on road side buildings were numerous bullet holes. Not forgetting the numerous police vans that paraded the streets. I cried in my soul and shock in fear at the sight of any military officer.
It is difficult to describe the mental suffering you see when you go to a war zone and you meet people affected by conflict or war. Sometimes you think it can’t get any worse. And then you go to another conflict situation and it is worse, another kind of hell.
These people desperately need to be able to obtain treatment and care. Their disorders often impair their ability to function – so access to care isn’t just about improving mental health, it can be a matter of survival.
Sadly there are very few organizations with the capacity to identify, treat, reintegrate and follow up persons living with mental illness as IDPs or residents of the restive North West and South West. Neither are they any tangible mental health policies in Cameroon.
The numbers are sure to triple after the crisis and the big question remains; What is the way forward? Do we remain reactive or become proactive? What form of psychosocial support can we offer IDPs suffering from mental challenges?
Remember any further neglect on the mental health of persons in war zones and IDPs will be very detrimental for the proper functioning of the economy now and in future. Let's act now!
P.S : Best Graduating Management student HIMS 2018 National Best (Distinction).