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News & Blog > Blogs: "Perspectives, Provocations & Initiatives" > A Letter from Cameroon: Vaccine rollout and updates

A Letter from Cameroon: Vaccine rollout and updates

IDS alum Nicoline Nwenushi Wazeh (MAGen28) with contributions from Ndi Nancy Saiboh share details about the financial and social management of the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Cameroon.
Image: istock 1282934485
Image: istock 1282934485

Cameroon officially launched its Covid-19 vaccination on April 12, 2021 in Yaoundé the capital city, after receiving a consignment of  200,000 doses of the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine the day before. Although the  personnel of the Ministry of Public Health were prioritized as primary frontliners, the launch also witnessed a massive participation of state officials who were vaccinated first to set the pace and unravel coronavirus conspiracy theories and vaccination hesitancy that pollutes the minds of Cameroonians. In the first week,  medical personnel resisted vaccination, with as few as only one vaccinated in some centers, whereas foreigners could be seen in queues taking advantage of the vacuity of medical personnel  to vaccinate themselves. Since April 15, 2021, the target population has extended to include persons above 50 and those with comorbidities. However,  as of April  28, only 1.9% of the target population have received a jab although Cameroon is ranked “very high risk” as community protection is almost nonexistence and death toll continue to rise.

A  second delivery of  391 200 doses of the Oxford  Astra Zeneca  vaccine, arrived in Cameroon on April 17. While  Cameroon awaits  two more vaccines (Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik V) rollout has been extended to cover all the 243  district hospitals in all the ten regions.

It should be noted that the above two deliveries are gifts from friendly countries. It’s further worth noting that before the national launch, diplomatic missions in Cameroon such as the American Embassy rolled out vaccinations for its workers  about a month earlier with the Moderna vaccine. In the meantime, the US Government donated the sum of $4 million USD to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI)  which Cameroon is  a beneficiary to procure and supply Covid-19 vaccine to underdeveloped countries and also donated $1 million USD  to Cameroon for Covid-19 vaccine introduction and rollout.

Covid-19 Funding and Management in Cameroon

Firstly a reminder that following confirmation of the  first Covid-19 case on March 6, 2020, Cameroon's Prime Minister on the  instructions of the Head of  State   created a “Coronavirus (Covid-19) Response Special National Solidarity Fund” to which he  contributed XAF 1 billion (approx. $185,000 USD) and Cameroonian citizens contributed over XAF 40 million (approx. $75,000 USD) to this fund. Meanwhile the International Monetary Fund, among other international assistance, provided $226 million USD to support  Covid-19 response in Cameroon. The Human Rights Watch reported the existence of  43 Covid-19 projects, including $100 million from the African Development Bank in Cameroon. With very limited health infrastructures and a pandemic Cameroonians expected the operationalisation of  billons of XAF purportedly  in an emergency reserve fund established by government in 1993 wherein healthcare facilities pay 10% of their monthly revenue to prepare for emergencies like the Covid-19 pandemic. Cameroon is in the process of negotiating its third loan with IMF and the public health ministry is under investigation but Cameroonians are yet to be given an account of how all the Covid-19 resources are managed as social accountability remains a luxury in this country.

Hospital infrastructures have reported mediocre support including 12 masks, 20 boxes of gloves, and four full body gowns for almost 50 employees, while entire communities have received a carton of soap, 100 face masks and 100 buckets. Attempts by some local community heads to reject the ridiculous gifts met with threats of dismissal  from government representatives.

Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic Cameroon had less than 100 ventilators for a population of about 25,000.000,  insufficient health facilities, inadequate  protective equipment and many other limitations. One year after the mobilization of so much health resources and in the process of negotiating a third Covid-19 support fund with IMF after the previous two totaling $382 million USD, there are still less than 200 ventilators in the whole country. The only reason why the presidency has opened  a judiciary inquiry  against the health ministry is to fulfill IMF anti-corruption requirement which seems to be sine qua non [essential] to the third loan approval. 

The creation of “Operation Sparrowhawk” in 2006 to track and arrest embezzlers of state funds and the establishment in 2012 of a special Criminal Court to prosecute offences of misappropriation of public funds notwithstanding, corruption, embezzlement, sidelining, controversy, hegemony and other ills that hound the Cameroonian society especially within the administration, once more ushered their obnoxious heads in Covid-19 management. It is unfortunate that appointed officials in Cameroon continue to “rule” and manage national resources as their private enterprises with no accountability. They are the “chosen ones” of the regime in place and Cameroonian born, seasoned Barrister Akere Muna, former vice president of Transparency International on the issue of their accountability doubts how “fish can be expected to vote the budget for their hooks”.

An emergency  support fund from IMF can be a welcome initiative to support vulnerable masses already shouldering the burden of armed conflicts from the Boko Haram violent extremism in the Far North Region and the Anglophone Crisis in the North West and South West Regions alongside worsening humanitarian conditions. However, probity, good governance, social accountability , transparency, M&E and reporting which are key to such programs fall short of Cameroon’s development model. Such programs must be able  to address the pandemic comprehensively and systemically, applying a gender, human rights-based, and intersectional lens, centered on non-discrimination, participation and empowerment of vulnerable communities. The program should consider the lost livelihoods of socially vulnerable groups particularly women who in majority work in the informal sector and issues of Sexual and Gender Based Violence in Emergencies(SGBV); address issues of civil society access to accountability and shrinking civic space.

This is an update to the IDS Alumni Response to alumni network news articles published around the beginning of the Covid-19 Pandemic:

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