Featured Storyteller

CAMEROON: Without Health Care, We Are Not Secure

ARREY- ECHI
Posted January 7, 2019 from Cameroon
Arrey-Echi

While conflict in Cameroon rages, Arrey-Echi Agbor-Ndakaw posits that security means more than the absence of war.

“I recently had to wonder what exactly I would pack in an emergency bag if I had to leave my home because of insecurity. 

The list of things which cause insecurity, especially to women and vulnerable people, is long. It is practically impossible to feel secure when bullets fly left, right and center like is the case now in the Anglophone regions of my country, Cameroon.

If you are a woman walking alone in the street, you can’t feel secure with shivers running down your spine as the fear of being raped drums into your mind. It is also impossible to feel secure if you are deprived of shelter. You can’t feel secure if your very being is threatened by the same person who promised to love and cherish you.

These are the types of security threats we typically talk about when we talk about security. We refer to physical security and emotional and financial wellbeing. Most definitions of security include an absence of war and access to shelter, food, and freedom.

But, when I think about what security means to me, I think of an aspect of security that many others fail to see—health care. Health care is often neglected or overlooked in these conversations.

As someone with a long history of health issues, maybe this recognition comes more naturally to me. The present situation in my country also makes me think about this crucial aspect of security. Not too long ago, I was with a friend at the hospital. She was in urgent need of care, and I was terrified that her life was in danger.  I thought the doctors would see her case as an emergency and rush to assist her. Unfortunately, the doctors on call took their glorious time to attend to her. We tried several times to get them to attend to her but no one would help. I left that hospital feeling angry and frustrated. I couldn’t help thinking about the many people who die after attempts to reach hospitals to meet doctors who appear to be too busy to treat them as emergency cases.

We rush to hospitals in our most vulnerable moments, seeking help and succor, but we are left even more vulnerable when health care providers act like they didn’t see us. I have to ask myself, how safe are we, really? How many preventable deaths would have been avoided if such incidents didn’t happen? Are we secure if we go to hospitals and the doctors are not so quick to attend to us? These thoughts ran through my mind as I went home after watching my friend suffer without timely care. Later, I was sad to hear friends recount stories of similar experiences that had happened to them.

The violent crisis in my country has made it even more difficult for people to access the health care they need. What began as a peaceful protest in October, 2016 by lawyers and teachers protesting the marginalization of Anglophone people in Cameroon has taken a turn for the worse. There has been a huge loss of lives and property. Many people have been rendered homeless; they are either internally displaced or they have become refugees in other countries, like Nigeria.

Many of those losing their lives in the conflict are dying from lack of access to quality health care, not only from bullets and machetes. Every day it seems there are new stories of burned villages and health centers. I have seen horrible stories of patients too weak to run who were burned to ashes in the same place they went to seek help. It has been difficult to swallow these images of charred bodies and burned hospitals and it has even been more difficult to believe hospitals and health personnel would become targets during conflicts. It has been painful to see images of mothers wailing on the street, calling for a ceasefire.

We all want the crisis and the casualties to end, but many of the methods intended to curb the uprising only increase the insecurity and vulnerability of those directly concerned. For instance, a recent curfew got me thinking about people living with sickle cell disease—sickle cell warriors—in these troubled Anglophone regions.

As one who lives with sickle cell, I know our health is always unpredictable. A health crisis can start without warning in the middle of the night. Sometimes, rushing to the hospital immediately can mean the difference between life and death. But due to the curfew, it has become increasingly difficult to reach the hospital in such emergencies. In times of insecurity, how can we care for the psychological and emotional well being of those directly affected by the crisis? How do we ensure security for sickle cell warriors, people in need of dialysis, pregnant women, the weak, and the elderly?

I recently had to wonder what exactly I would pack in an emergency bag if I had to leave my home because of insecurity. Medications? Water? Pull-overs? The conflict in my country has made us uncertain about our future health and well being.

Security means taking health care needs into consideration in times of crisis—and at all times. There can never be security in the true sense of the word when a fraction of a populace has to worry about access to good care. Stigma and the cost of medications have kept many away from receiving help when sick. Those in need must have access to good care and quality treatment without fear of reprisal or high costs.

Security isn’t just the absence of war. It is when women no longer die during childbirth. It is when people who are critically ill, who cannot afford treatment, get a chance at good care. This is how I define security.


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Comments 25

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Sis. Salifu
Jan 07
Jan 07

My dear Arrey :-), congratulations to you yaaay :-).
Hope you are having a nice day!

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Dear Lis,
Thank you!!!
Yes, my day is great. Hope yours too.

Olutosin
Jan 08
Jan 08

My darling sister, its a sad reality. Oir story is the same. We all hide under prayers for things doctors couls solve. Mchew.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Dear Sis Tosin,
You are right, health care is a challenge here and like any other profession, they have their own bad apples. Unfortunately, situations like the case with my friend mentioned above cast a cloud on the hard work and dedication of the many good doctors and healthcare providers braving the odds, sometimes at great sacrifices to themselves to ensure we have good care.
Nevertheless, in the middle of conflict, even such dedicated doctors still have difficulties carrying out their work. Reason why access to health care and protection of health personnel and resources are crucial in any conflict areas.

Jill Langhus
Jan 08
Jan 08

Hi Miss Arrey:-)

Congrats on winning the story award again... you're on fire!!!

Hope you're having a good day!!!

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Sis Jill,
Gracias!! I appreciate the encouragements from you as well.
Yes, my day is going great, thank you. Hope you are also having a great day.

Jill Langhus
Jan 09
Jan 09

Hello dear:-)

De nada! Thanks!

Awesome. Great to hear! Yes, I'm doing well, thank you!

Marie Abanga
Jan 08
Jan 08

Dear Arrey sis,

Congratulations. Yes, this is such an important but highly neglected aspect of security. War is definitely not a good nor only measure of security. It is high time we add health security to the other securities like 'food security', 'financial security' etc. Your approach and narrative really got me thinking too.
Thanks for sharing your story this way. I hope we don't get to the stage of packing bags cause am already so distraught with the sad stories flowing in each day from the affected regions.
loads of love
Marie

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Dear Marie,
Thank you very much. Truly, it is high time health security is included in all these talks on security.
I truly hope we do not get to that stage, the stories we hear are already very disheartening.
Thank you once again for reading through.
love always,
Arrey

Way to go, Sis Arrey! Congratulations! I'm so proud of you.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Sis Karen,
Thank you very much!
Hugs to you and family.
Hope all is well.

Maureen Enongene
Jan 09
Jan 09

Again, you have beautifully articulated the heart's cry od many Cameroonians; "Security isn't just the absence of war....It is when people who are critically ill...,get a chance at good care".
This one, I truly love

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Sis Mau,
Yaay! Welcome to the Pulse!
Glad to have you here.
Thank you for picking out that line. It is a truth often neglected by many especially policy makers.

Abiinwi
Jan 09
Jan 09

Great write up Arrey. There's no security without good healthcare.
Always nice reading from you.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 09
Jan 09

Dear Abinwi,
Happy to have you here sis. Welcome to the Pulse!
Indeed, there isn't. We just cannot talk security without thinking health care.

Sophie Ngassa
Jan 09
Jan 09

My dear sister Arrey, I told you that you are shining star. You will shine even brighter because of your work for humanity. Thanks for all the impact you are creating for the SS patients around the world. Thank you for saving lives. Love you loads an keep it up.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 10
Jan 10

Oh my! Thank you so much, Sis Sophie. These are beautiful words. I truly appreciate your support and encouragement. Together we will keep changing the narrative as we press for progress. Lots of love.

Mahnaz Harrison
Jan 11
Jan 11
ARREY- ECHI
Jan 14
Jan 14

Dear Mahnaz,
Thank you very much. Thank you too for the links. I have checked them out and they are really interesting. Will check your email address here and send you one. Thanks again.
Love from Cameroon.

Urmila Chanam
Jan 14
Jan 14

Kudos to you Arrey-Echi for such a powerful account of the law and order crisis in Cameroon and the outcomes of healthcare related compromises and human rights violations. How scary it is just to be reading about it through your story sitting across oceans and continents. There is nothing as frightful as when law and order gets out of hand and people who harness bias for a particular segment of people take the opportunity to seek revenge or harm them. That's when murder, rape and all sorts of evil spills on the streets. I am really thankful to you for identifying healthcare as the most pressing security concern. I pray for you my sister, keep safe and keep well.

Love always,
Urmila Chanam,
India
urmila.chanam@gmail.com

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 16
Jan 16

Dear Sis Urmi,
Thank you very much for reading and for the insightful comment.
You are right, when those who are supposed to bring in a measure of peace and order do the contrary, it leads to breeding grounds to a lot of social ills.
Access to health care is crucial to security especially in conflict areas.
Thank you, I will do so.
Love always,

Mimi Asheri
Jan 14
Jan 14

Hello dear,
Great write up and you put a lot of things into perspective. Health is wealth indeed.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 16
Jan 16

Dear Sis Mimi,
Welcome to the Pulse! Happy to have you here.
Thank you for reading. Health is wealth indeed.
Love,

Elemanyi
Jan 15
Jan 15

Great write-up, dear.

ARREY- ECHI
Jan 16
Jan 16

Thank you very much and thank you for reading.