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Cameroon: Video Shows Harsh Conditions of Rural Medicine

In 2000, the World Health Organization ranked Cameroon's health care system 163rd in the world.  That's somewhere below Mauritania and just above North Korea.   As in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, doctors in Cameroon work without adequate training or equipment–a fact that in itself is not surprising, but is made disturbingly real by four young Americans who shot this amateur video (WARNING: contains nudity and graphic images) of surgery in a rural hospital in Cameroon.  The video shows doctors who are seemingly indifferent to basic hygiene or their patients’ dignity, let alone the desperate groans of one woman whose anesthesia begins wearing off in the middle of the operation.

Recently posted on 20mai.net, a Camerounian citizen media site, the video provoked a heated discussion.  The filmmakers’ ostensible goal was to portray the harsh reality of health care in Cameroon.  Some applauded the makers of the clip for documenting the deplorable and dangerous conditions in which these doctors work.  Others wondered if this video was little more than a piece of “voyeurism,” put online to entertain whites.

One reader calls GRISSOM, a medical doctor from Cameroon, describes his reaction:

Je suis médecin, alors ce genre d’images me choquent-elles ? Oui et non… oui parce qu’évidemment les conditions dans lesquelles se déroulent l’opération (hygienne, salubrité, aseptie déplorable « en plein air» , anesthésie déficiente, salle non sécurisée, la liste est longue) ne peuvent que heurter la conscience professionnelle qui sommeille en moi, mais de l’autre, non je ne suis plus choqué parce que cette réalité là dans nos campagnes il y a bien lurette que ça existe…

I'm a doctor, and do those images chock me? Yes and no…yes because evidently the condition in which this operation is taking place (hygiene, cleanliness, deplorable sterilization “in the open,” deficient anesthesia, unsecured room, the list is long) cannot help but shock the professional conscience in me. On the other hand, I'm not shocked because it's clear that this is the reality has existed in our countrysides for ages…

Pourquoi on en est arrivé là ? C’est la conséquence de nos maux, de nos tares collectives. Manque d’anesthésistes (pénurie criarde) comme dans bien d’autres spécialités médicales, c’est pas nouveau. Je connais plusieurs anesthésistes camerounais formés en Afrique de l’Ouest qui jamais ne rentreront au pays (comme bien d’autres médecins). Pourquoi ? C’est pas à moi d’y répondre, je ne décide de rien depuis les sphères de ceux qui ont pris le pays en main comme leur prorpiétés. Ces même personnes dont le sport favori est le détournement des fonds à échelle hierarchisée (mes collegues sortis du CUSS ayant fait leur stage intégré dans le Cameroun profond savent de quoi ej parle) et qui s’appuie sur un peuple insouciant pour qui consommer la bière chaque soir en voyant Eto’o marquer (ou rater) des buts avec une belle wolowoss à côté d’eux suffit pour être heureux et ne plus se soucier du reste.

Why have we arrived here? ….. Lack of anesthesiologists (shocking shortage), as in many other medical specialties, is nothing new. I know several Camerounian anesthesiologists trained in West Africa who never returned to their country (like many other doctors). Why? That's not for me to answer, I decide nothing in the circles of those who have taken over the country like it's their own property.  These same people, whose favorite sport is the embezzlement of money all the way up the hierarchy (my colleagues who came out of the University Center For Health Sciences and did their residency in the heart of the country know what I'm talking about) and are supported by a happy-go-lucky people for whom drinking beer every night and watching Eto'o make (or miss) some goals with a beautiful prostitute at their side is enough to be happy and to make them not care about the rest.

Many placed the lion's share of the blame on the country's elites.

…je pense que tout etre humain a le droit de naitre et de mourir dans la dignite.chers gouvernants arretez de nous bourrer les oreilles avec le SIDA et autres inepties.regardez dans quelles conditions travaillent des personnes qui ont choisi de sauver des vies pendant que vous empilez milliards sur milliards sous vos lits et dans vos comptes en banque…
honte,honte,honte a vous…

…I think that every human being has the right to be born and to die with dignity.  dear leaders, stop stuffing our ears with AIDS and other nonsense.  look at the condition in which the people who have chosen to save lives work while you pile millions and millions under your beds and in your bank accounts.

shame, shame, shame on you…

charles nguingock writes:

je ne suis pas vraiment surpris puisque nos élites se font soigner en Europe et aux Etats-Unis il ya de quoi négliger le peuple CAMEROUNAIS.Que DIEU leur pardonne.

I'm not really surprised; since our elites are treated in Europe and the United States, what is it to neglect the Camerounian people? May God Forgive them.

Marie Damien writes:

Vous avez vu l’entrée de cette femme en salle d’op? On croirait assister à un spectacle de nudisme. Il n’est pas seulement question de matériel, mais aussi de notions d’hygiène et de conscience professionnelle… Il est temps que nos dirigeants prennent conscience de ce qui se passe autour d’eux. On ne peut fermer les yeux éternellement sur cet état de choses. Est-ce que l’auteur de cette vidéo pourrait nous dire si cette est sortie vivante de la salle d’op?

Did you see the entrance of this woman into the operating room?  It was like a nudist show.  It's not simply a question of equipment, but also the idea of hygiene and professional conscience…It is time that our leaders wake up to what's happening around them.  We can't close our eyes forever to this state of affairs.  Can the author of this video tell us if this woman left the operation room alive?

EVARISTE KPADE responds:

ouf!!!pour une fois on accuse pas la france.merci cher camarades pour votre lucidité!

wow!!! for once we aren't accusing France.  Thank you dear comrades for your lucidness!

Portraying a false image of Africa?

Still many other readers criticized the video itself, in particular, the questionable choice on the part of the filmmakers to show footage of a naked patient, and the choice of the doctors to allow four men, none of whom wore sterile clothing, into the operating room.

eboa lembe:

pour moi cette video perd sa credibilite a partir du moment ou elle est filme par des blancs.il faudrai vraiment etre naif pour croir qu,ils font ce reportage par sympathie pour les pauvres Africains car si l,Afrique croupi dans la misere c,est bien grace a eux.Alors ce que moi je proposerai est qu,il est tant pour nous de nous auto informer sur toutes realites qui se vivent chez nous .Car d,aucuns diront qu,ils sont surpris de savoir que les choses se passe ainsi chez nous ,mais ceux qui les informe c,est des gens qui vienne de loin ,en plus c,est la bete(les blancs).Moi je ne dirai pas que je suis choque par ces images car je sais qu,il y a pire a voir ds notre chere terre mere..

for me this video loses its credibility the moment it was filmed by whites.  we must really be naive to believe that they documented this out of sympathy for poor Africans since, if Africa is rotting in misery, it's thanks to them.  So what I would propose is that it's up to us to inform ourselves about all the realities that exist in our country.  Some will say that they are surprised by what happens here, but those which inform them are people who come from far away, and moreover, they are beasts (the whites).  Me, I'm not surprised by these images since I know that there is worse to see in our dear motherland…

Silas:

Je suis en même temps stupéfait par l’absence de dignité imposée à cette martyre de nos folies par les médecins qui laissent qu’on la filme nue, et qui de surcroit laissent entrer des individus non protégés par des tenues adéquates en matière d’hygiène, lesquels de surcroit prennent des photos!!!!!…

…Je ne sais pas pour vous mais bien que n’étant pas médecin je n’ai pas attendu cette video pour connaitre les conditions inhumaines dans lesquelles certain(e)s font vivre leurs compatriotes. Je n’ai pas non plus attendu cette video pour diversifier mes sujets de conversation! Si ces médecins avaient voulu montrer leurs conditions de travail, il suffit de filmer cette salle même vide, la salle d’attente et dire devant la caméra les conditions dans lesquelles ils travaillent!

At the same time I'm amazed by the lack of dignity imposed on this martyr of our insanity by doctors who let them film her nude, and who, moreover, let in individuals who were not adequate in terms of hygiene, who moreover take photos!!!!!…

…I don't know about you but even though I'm not a doctor, I wasn't waiting for this video to come along to know the inhuman conditions in which some of our countrymen live.  And I wasn't waiting for this video to add variety to my topics of conversation!  If the doctors wanted to show their conditions of work, it would have been enough to film the room, empty even, the waiting room, and to explain in front of the camera the conditions in which they work!

On the original YouTube site, GrandHustle27 takes issue with the title: “African Surgeries”:

this is ridiculous i live in Kenya not far from AGAKHAN HOSPITAL. it has state of the art Equipment with highly skilled Doctors. WHY would you put up a video like this. what are you trying to prove or portray. and you put the heading as AFRICA.

this aynt right. CHANGE THE heading to a title that reference where this took place. dont generalize a whole CONTINENT IN ONE DINGY LOCATION. COME ON YOU KNOW THIS PORTRAYAL IS FOALS AND WRONG.

Nadine:

ESSAYONS DE PENSER PLUS LOIN QUE CES IMAGES! C’est pareil que les images des Somaliens qu’on passe le temps à montrer à la TV; Étant soi-disant la vraie image de l’AFrique

LET'S TRY TO THINK A LITTLE MORE DEEPLY ABOUT THESE IMAGES!  They are like the images of Somalia they show on TV to pass the time, showing the so-called true image of Africa

A call for action

Heartening was the fact that many of the readers brainstormed possible responses to the video.  One suggested locating the actual clinic where the surgery took place (“Assuming that the doctors (incapable of cleaning a room) wanted to make known their working conditions, can we at the very least provide them with anesthesia (with the hope that the doctors won't sell it)!?,” Silas writes.).  Another, petitioning the government.

Jean asks if all the readers who are actually in Cameroon can't meet up and write a letter directly to the President or engage in some other kind of collective action  He explains:

En Europe, Amerique, etc.., dans tous ces pays riches, c’est la société civile qui décide, c’est à dire quand il y’a un problème comme le notre, toutes les associations sortent dans les rues pour manifester et le gouvernement est obligé de trouver une solution rapide face à celui-ci…

In Europe, in America, etc., in all the rich countries, it's civil society that decides things, meaning, that when there is a problem like this, all the associations go out into the streets to demonstrate and the government, faced with that, is forced to find a quick solution…

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