Featured Storyteller

CAMEROON: Practicing Medicine in a Community Plagued by War

Dr Jacky
Posted June 5, 2019 from Cameroon

Dr. Ngong Jacqueline Shaka was born breech in a clinic without a doctor. Today she practices medicine, but war has upset an already fraught healthcare system.

 

“An entire community of more than 35,000 people lacked a medic.

On Friday the 24th of January 1992, my mother’s water broke, and labor began. Five hours into labor, the first twin bounced out strong and resilient. Everyone impatiently waited for my arrival, but I didn’t come forth as expected. I was retained for three hours. Under these circumstances, the normal route of delivery would have been a C-section. But in a health center with no electricity and only one nursing aid attendant, there was no one to perform it. My grandma made her prayers to the Lord beckoning Him to save the lives of her daughter and her unborn baby. After three hours, I majestically presented one of my legs and was immediately pulled out by the midwife.

I was born and grew up in community called Fonfuka, in the Bum subdivision of the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Throughout my childhood, I could not understand why we never had a medical doctor in my community. My grandmother’s stories of the last doctor who ever served in my community dated back many years.

Throughout primary school and my first three years in secondary school, I was troubled as to why an entire community of more than 35,000 people lacked a medic. As soon as I got into Form 4, I knew I wanted to become a doctor.

During my seven years in medical school, I spent my summer breaks volunteering for health campaigns that took me to many hard-to-reach communities like my own. I quickly realized that the disturbing lack of healthcare providers was the reality of my country.  

Today, the doctor–­­patient ratio in Cameroon is one doctor per 40,000 people, well below the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of one per 1,000. In rural, hard-to-reach areas of Cameroon, the ratio drops even further. 

How can I sit back comfortably within the four walls of my office when I know that there are millions of patients out there who need my services but can never afford them? How can I be at ease when I work in a region that has been hit hard by a humanitarian crisis for the past three years, leading to the displacement of a huge number of healthcare providers with the patients left to the course of nature.

How do I bear the sight of hundreds of teenagers with unwanted pregnancies or experiencing complications from unsafe abortions performed by charlatans? What happens to the people living with HIV who no longer have access to their medications, or the people with diabetes and hypertension who are left to their fate as hospital doors shut? What is the future of our children who can no longer access routine vaccines? And what about the countless women who now deliver their babies in the bushes?

These questions, and many more, plague my mind daily. I ask myself, why choose to practice medicine in the first place? Should I just run away and pretend as if nothing is wrong?

Instead of giving in to my doubts, I remind myself that the intensity and the pain of my frustration with the healthcare system in my community and country is also an indication of an underlying opportunity.

And so, I have started health outreach activities at the community level targeting youth especially. My initiative is called Youth 2 Youth - Cameroon. While my efforts seem like an attempt to use a glass of water to save a mansion ravaged by fire, I am still here, doing what I can within this reality every day. I only hope I will not lose my mind!

The future of Cameroon’s healthcare system perplexes and troubles me, but I salute the bravery of the healthcare providers who risk their own lives to carry out their practice within these regions plagued by war. To all those of this noble profession, you are true heroes.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 14

Log in or register to post comments

Congratulations, Dr. Jacky, for being awarded as a Featured Storyteller!

As you salute the healthcare providers im Cameroon, we salute your tireless dedication as well! Cheers to you, you are your country’s She-ro!

Lisbeth
Jun 05
Jun 05

Congratulations on your story award and keep up the good work for your people. My sincerest prayers are with you and the people of Cameroon. Take care

Marie Abanga
Jun 06
Jun 06

Congratulations Doc,

I applaud you and just say may the good Lord bless you through it all o. We are in this together and sadly watching our beloved country going helter like this.

Jill Langhus
Jun 06
Jun 06

Congrats, Dr. Jacky for winning the story award. It's great that so many others will be able to hear about your great work now, too! Please keep it up and please keep sharing your updates and stories, too!

Z.Elias
Jun 06
Jun 06

Dr Jacky,
Congratulations for the award winning,
I like so much the combining of the issues faced by your community in the medical field and your resilience to become a doctor where your destiny has flourished.
The world needs more women like YOU.
Great job!
Thank you.

Leisley Chia
Jun 06
Jun 06

Congratulations nawain

Sophie Ngassa
Jun 06
Jun 06

My sister, congratulations for your story award. Thank you for taking time tell your inspiring story and for sharing this piece on World Pulse.

pacemaker
Jun 09
Jun 09

Making a mark were it seem impossible. Best wishes Dr Ngong. Congratulations on your award. More reward to come in your struggle to make Cameroon medically viable.

Kadi_lokule
Jun 10
Jun 10

i am touched by your story i hope many others can be like you, you are a powerful woman empathetic and strong. well done and congratulations.

Dr Jacky
Jun 20
Jun 20

Thank You to everyone of you out there for your kind words of encouragement. I truly appreciate and will write more

lailagardaCIP
Jul 09
Jul 09

Congratulations on receiving the story award.
Dr. Jacqueline I'm Dr. Garda from India and I salute your efforts in Cameroon. I would really like to know about your youth to youth initiative.
Once again u are doing some amazing work. God bless u.

Dr Jacky
Jul 09
Jul 09

Thanks a lot Dr Laila for the kind words.
Our facebook page: Youth 2 Youth -Cameroon.
website: www.youth2youthcameroon.org (under construction)
My email: jacquelinengong@yahoo.com

aliehgwendoline
Jul 12
Jul 12

Hello Dr. Jacky i admire your zeal and the bold step you took to becoming a medical Doctor and it came to pass.
It had always been my dream too to become a medic but it was aborted due to lack of finance.
But i still so much want to be part of reaching out to young girls healthwise especially those in remote areas who and who cannot afford proper healthcare.

narayani khadka
Jul 16
Jul 16

Dear Dr. Jacky, congratulations on being a featured story teller. Thank you so much for being a hope of many people. Power to you!! God bless you. ❤️