Featured Storyteller

CAMEROON: Practicing Medicine in a Community Plagued by War

Dr Jackie
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 27

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Karen Quiñones-Axalan
Jun 05, 2019
Jun 05, 2019

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!

Wusufor
Jun 05, 2019
Jun 05, 2019

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, 2019
Jun 06, 2019

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, 2019
Jun 06, 2019

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!

Zohra Elias
Jun 06, 2019
Jun 06, 2019

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, 2019
Jun 06, 2019

Congratulations nawain

Sophie Ngassa
Jun 06, 2019
Jun 06, 2019

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, 2019
Jun 09, 2019

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, 2019
Jun 10, 2019

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 Jackie
Jun 20, 2019
Jun 20, 2019

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

lailagardaCIP
Jul 09, 2019
Jul 09, 2019

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 Jackie
Jul 09, 2019
Jul 09, 2019

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

aliehgwendoline
Jul 12, 2019
Jul 12, 2019

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, 2019
Jul 16, 2019

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. ❤️

Ndongmanji Eunice
Sep 21, 2019
Sep 21, 2019

Hey Dr Jacky
Congratulations on your award. I want to applaud you for your great initiative (Youth 2 Youth - Cameroon). It is said that little things matter a lot , so too does your glass of water. You are not alone. Good job

Gracia
Sep 21, 2019
Sep 21, 2019

Congratulations Dr. Jacky. You paint a beautiful sad picture of the reality of our health system. I admire your courage of not running away.True heroes fight from within

Jap Mouki Christelle Alexandra
Oct 12, 2019
Oct 12, 2019

Congratulations on your award Dr Ngong. Your life inspires and opens the mind to strive for more.

MButler
Oct 24, 2019
Oct 24, 2019

Dear Dr. Jacky. I am amazed by your courage and determination to make a difference in your community. You are making an impact! Your work is an inspiration and a reminder that we each have the ability to help people in need.

Charity Birla
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

Congratulations ....only few are ready to devote and dedicate themselves to serve their own . Health care has always been a problem in out communities in Cameroon. Much love and strength from me.

Dr Jackie
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

OOH thanks a lot, Charity

taberuth
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

Good job sister!! And congratulations keep it up and know WESF is here to support voluntarily

Dr Jackie
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

Thank you Ruth for the kind words!

Sinyuy Geraldine
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

Dear Dr Jackie, yes, the situation is telling and almost every profession proves tough in our region now. We pray things get better. The health of our people is at stake but we trust God. Thanks for sharing. Congratulations o. the award.

Dr Jackie
Dec 18, 2019
Dec 18, 2019

Very kind of you to say, Geraldine. Thank u

ARREY- ECHI
Dec 19, 2019
Dec 19, 2019

Congratulations Dr Jacky for being a featured story teller.
As someone who frequents the hospital all the time, I understand the dire need of doctors. I see how doctors are overworked and underpaid. And it doesn't help when despite the fact that we train so many Drs yearly, we loss them just as much to lucrative opportunities abroad.

I salute your courage and dedication to saving lives and humanity despite the challenges of our health sector and dedicated community driven Drs like you give some of us hope for the future of the health care sector. Thank you for your service and for all you do with the Youth2Youth project.

Ellie E.
Apr 18
Apr 18

Thank you for sharing your story! It is incredibly inspirational to hear about how you transformed one of the biggest difficulties of your job into something positive!

KieraCR
May 14
May 14

Dr. Jacky,
I appreciate you so much for sharing this. Lack of proper healthcare systems has always been a topic of interest for me so I really enjoyed reading about your personal experiences. Thank you for the work that you do! Truly, such a blessing.