The United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA) notes that the armed conflict and humanitarian crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions continue to significantly compromise access to primary health care (UNFPA Cameroon, 2022). Sexual and reproductive health services among adolescents and young people are a challenge due to the massive displacement of the population and the inability of medical supplies to penetrate the high-risk zones. Recognizing the consequences of this healthcare challenge, Global Health Systems Solutions (GHSS) kick-started a project dubbed: ‘’Community approaches to improve Sexual, and Reproductive Health (SRH) needs in the Conflict Zones of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon’’, in July 2022. GHSS is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization created in 2007 to strengthen surveillance and medical laboratory systems, services, and networks in developing countries and conduct operational research to support healthcare programs (GHSS, 2022).
The Organization’s sexual and reproductive health project aims to improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents and young people in Cameroon’s North West and South West regions through innovative approaches that would bridge gaps and consolidate planned and ongoing health interventions. From July to October 2022, GHSS has, in collaboration with the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, provided sexual and reproductive health services to 87,022 adolescents and young people in the Buea, Limbe, Tiko, Bangem, Tombel, Tubah, Bamenda and Bamenda 3 health districts of the conflict-affected regions. The sexual and reproductive services include family planning services such as the distribution of male and female condoms, emergency contraceptive pills, oral contraceptives, as well as injectable contraceptives, and implants. Treatment of sexually transmitted infections following the syndromic approach is also being done.
Dr. Ngund Mathias, The District Medical Officer for Buea Health District, noted, “This project has come at the right time. Many people need sexual and reproductive health services in this region, especially in this context of insecurity and socio-political crisis where communities are displaced, and health facilities are not always able to offer all the services. This project is different because it’s being carried out within the communities.”
GHSS has also built the capacity of 200 community health workers, 100 field health assistants and 20 sexual and reproductive health advocates, and 10 supervisors, who have been provided with communication tools like tablets, mobile phones and internet modems. These healthcare practitioners have been deployed to all 8 targeted health districts in the North West and South West regions to identify and manage/and refer cases that needed Sexual and Reproductive Health Services to the Youth centers and health facilities. Through home visits and outreach sessions, the community health workers and field health assistants have mobilized and sensitized 158,693 adolescents and young people, identified, and referred 113 cases of gender-based violence, 710 cases of teenage pregnancies and 210 cases of unvaccinated children.
Nchinda Edmon, a Youth Advocate for the project, noted that many young people who need sexual and reproductive health services shy away from health facilities. Nchinda added, “If you sit at the health facilities, you may be tempted to think such services are unnecessary. When we went to the communities, we marvelled at how much they consumed these products and services. Many even took our contact details to come for more information and access to services.”
With the growing demand for sexual and reproductive health services in the two conflict-affected regions of Cameroon, Global Health Systems Solutions and partners have created/renovated and equipped 10 multi-purpose youth empowerment centres to facilitate community engagement and coordination of sexual and reproductive health interventions. As part of the project, the organization will provide 2 ambulances (one in each region) to support community referral systems. The plan is to widen the project’s impact in all 8 targeted districts in the next phase.
GHSS – About Us. (2022). https://ghsscm.org/about-us-3/
UNFPA Cameroon. (2022). https://www.unfpa.org/data/CM