Here under is an introductory statement of the Minister of Communication
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am highly delighted to wish you a warm welcome in this conference room of the Douala Laquintinie Hospital, on the occasion of this meeting to which I invited you, to update you on the activities of the humanitarian Mercy Ships mission which has been present in our country for almost a month.
Nonetheless, before getting into the crux of the matter, allow me to say how honored I am to be joined by their Excellencies, the Minister of Social Affairs, the Minister of Women Empowerment and the Family and the Minister of Public Health, who have agreed to co-chair this press conference with me.
I would also like to point out that this inter-ministerial delegation has been dispatched here in Douala on the Special Instructions of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, to carry out an initial evaluation of this landmark medical mission, the importance of which is no longer to be demonstrated for the health and well-being of our populations.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a reminder, it is at the invitation of the Head of State, His Excellency Paul BIYA, that the International Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organization, Mercy Ships made the trip to Cameroon for a 10-month stay, within the framework of a medical mission.
As you are all aware, this mission is placed under the Distinguished Patronage of Mrs. Chantal BIYA, First Lady of Cameroon, and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.
Generally speaking, the primary objective of the Mercy Ships is to provide access to quality medical care, particularly to those living in abject poverty, by teams of highly skilled health experts from a wide range of backgrounds.
Mercy Ships has a vocation to provide high-performance healthcare programmes, with appropriate technical platforms and health skills, to the States and other communities that express the need and who meet their conditions of economic sustainability, particularly targeting disadvantaged patients who would have never had access to such care in areas of relative development.
In addition, this is the option that the Head of State undertook, to invite this mission to Cameroon and to order for the full assumption of all the related expenses, so that the beneficiaries should under no circumstances, I say it again, under no circumstances, be requested to pay any financial charges.
With regard to the mission which is currently in Cameroon, activities are taking place on board of one of the hospital ships belonging to the Mercy Ships fleet, called Africa Mercy. They are mainly oriented towards surgery, and more specifically, on the following surgical services:
• general and orthopedic surgery: deformities related to neglected trauma, correction of clubfoot and congenital deformities;
• oral and face surgery: non-cancerous deforming tumors, cleft palate, cleft lip and goiters;
• reconstructive plastic surgery: congenital abnormalities, after-effects of burns, chronic ulcers and large tumors.
• gynecological surgery: obstetric fistulas and large fibroids.
• ophthalmic surgery and dental care.
As a first element of the assessment, I would like to point out that the objectives of the therapeutic management established from the onset was to target 6000 patients for this operation.
On the evening of 7 September 2017, that is to say in just three weeks after the landing of the vessel, which has a fixed ten-month duration in Cameroon, there were already 144 patients who answered present, with 71 patients’ guards to accompany them.
Following the pre-surgical examinations on the hospital ship which began on August 22, 2017, 30 patients had already undergone heavy surgery, including 10 for oral and face surgery, 8 for fistula surgery and 12 for orthopedic surgery.
Of the 30 patients operated upon, 14 patients were discharged; with the remaining 16 continuing post-surgical care at the Hope Center, based at the Nylon District Hospital here in Douala.
As regards psychosocial support, all the patients concerned and their guards benefit from the support provided by the Minister of Social Affairs and the Minister of Women Empowerment and the Family; which makes it possible to care for all these people since their departure from their respective regions, along their different journeys to Douala, during their stay in Douala and on their return itineraries.
With regard to cases of obstetric fistula, the aim is to take care of 500 women, 300 of whom are already selected.
Selection campaigns are underway in all parts of the country under the auspices of the Minister of Women Empowerment and the Family and with the collaboration of the Minister of Public Health, the Minister of Social Affairs and the United Nations Population Fund.
For patients suffering from ophthalmological diseases, their selection was limited to the city of Douala. It targets nearly 2,900 people and the campaign will start on September 20, 2017 at the Regional Craft Village every Monday and Tuesday, and at the Vita Parcours site every Wednesday and Thursday. Ocular surgery will start on October 2, 2017.
Concerning dental pathologies, the screening is targeting 9000 people and is taking place at the Bonanjo Party House in Douala since September 4, 2017. Surgical procedures are performed at the dental clinic of Douala Laquintinie Hospital.
So that is it in terms of the management of pathologies as such.
However, as we announced during our press conference on April 26, 2017 in Yaoundé, the Mercy Ships mission in Cameroon includes, in addition to the medical care component, two other components, defined in terms of the rehabilitation of health facilities and the capacity building among local expertise.
In terms of the rehabilitation of health facilities, this component is fully funded by Mercy Ships to the tune of 1.5 million US Dollars. First, the Hope Center has a capacity of 200 beds at the Nylon District Hospital and secondly, the Biomedical Maintenance Training Centre and the Dental and Ophthalmological Clinic of the Douala Laquintinie Hospital.
In terms of capacity building, the 21 medical specialists from Cameroon who will benefit from the mentoring programme are already all identified. They are expected on the hospital ship from 19 September 2017.
The same applies to the 496 medical and paramedical personnel assigned to short-term training courses, which will take place on 8 different themes with 25 sessions taking place in off-shore sites in Yaoundé and Douala.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In the light of what has just been described, I would like to point out that the Mercy Ships operation in Cameroon is already on the way to largely surpass all the forecasts in terms of patients targeted for the different care.
Actually, with an initial goal of 6,000 patients to take charge, today’s forecasts predict that more than 12,000 patients will be taken care of by the programme, with their overwhelming majority, as I have already indicated, being the most deprived populations particularly exposed to abject poverty.
You therefore understand why the Head of State has kept to his words, that is to say, to bear all the expenses related to this operation, from the medical and surgical aspects to the caring of the selected patients and their accompanying guards, including their personal transport, at the expense of the Ministry of Transport, taking charge of their transport, from and to each patient’s home, while the Douala City Council is providing a bus to transport patients from the Party House in Bonanjo, to the accommodation and hospitalization sites.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to point out that all the eligible persons identified during the sorting and selection campaigns carried out will not be able to benefit from the surgical care provided for in the Mercy Ships operation due to a force majeure.
These reasons relate firstly to the number of operating rooms available (5 operating rooms in all, for all specialties), in terms of the expected duration of the operation; and secondly, due to the gravity and complexity of certain pathologies which often require several surgical procedures.
However, for those patients, who, after being sorted, would not be immediately taken care of, they will be retained for inclusion in a waiting list set up at the level of the Ministry of Public Health, which will serve as a basis for selection, not only for withdrawal cases, but also for other medical campaigns for humanitarian purposes which the Minister of Public Health is regularly organizing, with the support of national and international partners and NGOs.
In any case, what is to be remembered, while the Mercy Ships mission is still only in its early days in Cameroon, is the firm resolve of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, to constantly be by the side of his compatriots, in addressing the challenges facing them for the improvement of their social well-being.
This resolve of the Head of State particularly affects the most disadvantaged populations, who, at certain moments may, mistakenly feel that they are left aside from national priorities.
Operation Mercy Ships, which has just begun, is a concrete illustration of the commitment of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA.
Thanks to the virtues of such a mission, vulnerable and low-income social strata are offered the unexpected possibility of access to very high-quality care, which they would never have received had this opportunity not been created.
It should be made clear that this high-level medical mission carried out by one of the most prestigious humanitarian NGOs in the world was made only made possible only thanks to the Head of State, who had wished and decided on the cost-free nature of this operation to the benefit of the most vulnerable strata of our populations.
Such an operation, it should be made clear, is carried out without prejudice to the pursuit of a policy of improving the country’s health map, characterized by the construction of reference training centres, community hospitals, rehabilitation and installation of high-level technical platforms throughout the national territory.
The Government of the Republic, led by the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, under the coordination of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, hereby expresses, through my voice, its irreversible commitment and determination to continue in this commendable initiative for the human development of our country.
I thank you for your kind attention.”