Sunday, January 16, 2022

Cameroonian nurses call for extra care for terminally ill people

Nurses in Cameroon are marking this year’s World Hospice and Palliative Care Day (9 October) with visits to critically ill patients in the country’s troubled North-West and South-West regions. The ongoing separatist conflict in the region has left hundreds of patients unable to receive routine home hospice care. Cameroonian nurses are calling for this to change.

Dr Mundih Noeler Njohjam, who treats patients with terminal illnesses at Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services in Bamenda, the capital of the English-speaking North-West region, says the separatist crisis is denying palliative care to many patients.

“The high level of insecurity due to the current crisis has negatively affected access to palliative care for many patients, especially those with cancer. Patients with terminal diseases do not have access to health facilities where they can receive adequate palliative care. As a result, they will have to settle for suboptimal palliative care,” Njojam said.

The Cameroon Association of Terminally Ill Patients reports that more than 900 patients are denied access to palliative care in the English-speaking western regions.

The association says hundreds of patients who need help to find relief from the aches and pains are dying in towns and villages. He says several hundred caregivers have fled hospitals in the restive English-speaking regions of Cameroon since the separatist crisis escalated in 2017.

Hundreds of patients who have the means migrate to safer French-speaking cities to receive medical care for their terminal illnesses. Patients say they prefer to relocate to Cameroon’s capital, Yaonde and Douala, a coastal city where many of their family members have fled to safety.

Among others, the nurses visited the Yaounde residence of Christophe Esselebo, 67, a retired teacher who has been living with HIV and liver disease for three years. He says that he has to face a lot of stigma from family members and friends.

He says that to prevent a mental health crisis from developing, he avoids feelings of emotional attachment with family members who have left him because of his condition. He says he avoids trauma during the rest of his days by staying positive about life and making friends on social media with positive-thinking people.

Esselebo says he regularly follows the treatments recommended by his doctor.

This year’s visit to the homes of people with terminal illnesses was organized by the Cameroonian Association of Terminally Il Patients and Santo Domingo Cameroon, a center that cares for people with terminal illnesses.

Fulbert Kenfac Geofac, coordinator of Santo Domingo Cameroon, says poverty drives 70% of sick Cameroonians to seek help from African traditional healers. They say that either due to illiteracy or lack of financial means, families leave their members at home until they die.

Geofac said fighters and government soldiers in the English-speaking western regions should avoid inflicting more pain on patients who are already suffering from diseases that cannot be treated. He said that members of the medical staff should be allowed to deliver health care to those in need.

Nurses tell citizens not to be prejudiced about seriously ill people in Cameroon.

Cameroon’s health ministry says the greatest bias has been shown towards people living with infectious incurable diseases such as HIV.

The health ministry says the stigma is driven by the belief that those receiving palliative care will die sooner and that incurable diseases are divine punishments for wrongdoing. Some families prevent palliative caregivers from visiting their sick patients at home, reports the government.

Nurses said the role of palliative caregivers is to ease the physical pain of patients with medications and provide psychological, emotional and spiritual counseling to people with life-threatening and incurable illnesses.

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