Turning up the volume for cancer patients in Cameroon that are not getting heard

5 May 2021
Turning up the volume for cancer patients in Cameroon that are not getting heard

Tata Mayaah Eveline, founder of Humanity at Heart International (a cancer prevention & advocacy centre), Women's Health Advocate and Wellness Counsellor @ Eve's Natura Wellness Center, writes about her experiences....

My first whisper of a problem was when one of the patients who is a regular in our support group called me in extreme distress asking about the impact of not completing her course of radiotherapy for her advanced cervical cancer.

This was followed by three further calls that day, all from cancer patients with no information about what the delay in treatment means for them or any idea if, or when radiation services in the public could resume.

I later heard that cancer patients had staged a protest about the stoppage in the General Hospital in Douala.

This is the location of the only radiotherapy machine in the public sector in Cameroon.

The group of largely breast and cervical cancer patients had heard that the only option for them to maintain their full course of treatment was in the private centres at private centre prices.

The price one private cancer centre quoted to me was 2763 USD, over eight times the public centre fee of 331.

As Formasoh Constance shares in the video clip below, this is beyond the scope of most Cameroonians and especially hard on top of several monthly bills for chemotherapy.

I have been contacted every day since, women or their loved ones asking me for help to cover this unplanned additional expense.

I have since learned that the cobalt source for the machine needs to be replaced.

There does not seem to be any timeline for when this will happen although I am assured that this is in progress. I have reached out to the National Cancer Control Committee.

They told me the private centre had sent them a Memorandum of Understanding as well as to the Ministry of Health but we are yet to see the results from this MoU.

I am shocked at the lack of compassion from these businesses – are cancer patients only profit to them? I also see no drive to resolve this issue from the Ministry of Health.

We know that there are challenges with the pandemic, but it cannot be a surprise that the cobalt-60 source was reaching the end of its life.

We all also know that the only thing that has not stopped due to COVID-19 is cancer cells, they keep growing.

Cancer patients and their loved ones are scared. I am so frustrated, there does not seem to be any plan in place at all.

How can that be? Brave patients are voicing their fears here in the hope that raising the profile of this impasse can help bring a solution quickly to cancer patients in Cameroon.

Through Julie Torode at UICC I have also learned that the International Atomic Energy Agency can potentially provide assistance.

I have encouraged both the representatives of our NCCP Committee and the Ministry of Health to take advantage of the support this expert agency can provide – all we need to do is ask for help!

My name is Tata Mayaah Eveline, I am Executive Director of the Humanity at Heart International Association, a registered NGO devoted to breast and cervical cancer prevention and policy-based advocacy to address the top two cancer killers of Cameroonian women.

Our vision is to see a healthy and productive society where every woman has information and equal access to cancer screening and when needed, timely treatment and palliative care without stigma or discrimination and appropriate financial protection from catastrophic expenditure.

Source: Humanity at Heart International