Information last updated: May 04, 2020
- Level of confinement and until when: Restrictions on large public gatherings, 4pm curfew on numerous leisure activities, restaurants etc. and closures of educational facilities until further notice. All land, sea and air borders are closed until further notice.
Response set up and capacity
The responsibility for the management of the COVID-19 pandemic rests with the Government of Cameroon and more specifically the Ministry of Public Health. The emergency administrative structure for epidemics, the “Public Health Emergency Operations Centre”, has also been granted competencies to contribute to the management of the pandemic. Moreover, local structures of government have also been tasked with implementing public health measures to contain the virus.
Cameroon’s health system is poorly prepared and ill-equipped to face the pandemic if the country experiences the same type of exponential growth in cases similar to other countries. There is a lack of vital equipment and facilities, characterized by the lack of intensive care beds (5 per 1 million) and ventilators. Its lack of preparedness and adequacy is also highlighted by numerous indices such as Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index & State Party Self-Assessment Annual Reporting score. The health system’s shortcomings are even more pronounced in the North-East and South-East which are the most vulnerable areas facing humanitarian risks such as conflict, deprivation and food insecurity.
The public health system in Kenya is characterized by 0.09 doctors, 0.93 nurses and midwives, and 1.30 beds per 1,000 inhabitants.
Entities / Organizations
Government of Cameroon:
• Ministry of Public Health
• Public Health Emergency Operations Centre
• Local municipalities & communes
• International Medical Corps
• Plan International
• Solidarités International
• Opposition parties
Mitigating factors - What is being done?
- 7 March – Communiqué from the ministry of public health outlined the creation of awareness campaigns to help combat the virus, such as hygiene practices, discouragement to travel and 14-days self-quarantine if returning to Cameroon from another country or coming into contact with an infected traveler etc. It also announced health screenings at airports and border crossings and activated the emergency administrative structure “Public Health Emergency Operations Centre” to respond to the first confirmed cases. Isolation spaces have been put into place in airports, seaports and health facilities – more specifically at: Yaoundé Central Hospital, Laquintinie Hospital in Douala, Garoua Regional Hospital, and Kribi District Hospital.
- 13 March – Authorities imposed entry requirements into the country: a negative COVID-19 test must be submitted before any visa is obtained.
- 18 March – The government announced a series of measures including closure of all land, sea and air borders (this also implies suspension of all entry visas), the closure of all educational/training facilities such as schools and universities (public and private), a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people, reductions in public transport, closure of all leisure facilities, restaurants and drinking establishments at 4pm everyday (curfew), reductions in urban and inter-urban travelling unless strictly necessary, requisition of certain infrastructures by the government to combat the pandemic and the suspension of international missions for public sector workers
- 25 March – All public sector workers are to be regularly subjected to temperature testing.
- 30 March – The Government in partnership with the private sector set up a solidarity fund
- 2 April – The Ministry of Public Health reiterates preventative measures of hygiene practices and social distancing to be observed by the public.
- 2-7 April – The ministry of Public Health announces that a large-scale search and testing campaign will be rolled out in the city of Douala.
- 4 April – Medical & surgical equipment is ordered by the government to prepare for increasing cases.
- 9 April – The government announces further measures that take effect on the 13th of April, including a mandate that makes wearing masks in all public places mandatory, it outlines plans for the domestic production of medicines, testing equipment, masks and hydro-alcoholic gels. It also establishes special treatment centers in all major regions of the country and pledges to intensify testing and public awareness campaigns, focusing particularly on areas with existing cases. Sanctions are also put in place for breaches of restriction measures.
- 15 April – The president announces measures to facilitate the decongestion of prisons by reducing prison sentences
- 16 April – The government announces that schools will reopen in June.
- 20 April – An agreement has been reached between the central government and decentralized units of government that specifies that local councils will contribute to the prevention and response to the virus. This paves the way for more coordination in the response to the pandemic.
- 4 May – IMF Executive Board Approves a US$226 million Disbursement to Cameroon to Address the impact of the COVID-19 Pandem
Risks, vulnerabilities, obstacles
- Cameroon has a significant refugee and internally displaced population that are generally more vulnerable to shocks. The country also has 3.9 million people in humanitarian need. These people are also vulnerable in a range of dimensions: weak hygiene practices, limited access to health care services and medicines, lack of personal and food security etc. This is especially true in the North-west and South-west of the country. These people are especially vulnerable to the virus and hence pose a significant risk if the virus spreads to this population sub-groups.
- This humanitarian situation is made worse by the conflicts that persist in the country such as the Ambazonian separatist conflict. They destroy health facilities, limit the access of healthcare workers and supplies to aid those in need, and exacerbate socio economic deprivations.
- These vulnerable areas (north-east, south-west and far-north) are also characterized by a lack of healthcare facilities and services with difficult access to the latter, thus constituting a major risk when facing a pandemic.
- FAO has warned of food insecurity, estimating that 2.6 million people are at risk. This could be exacerbated by the covid-19 pandemic if the number of confirmed cases rises and reaches rural areas/areas most at risk (north west, south west and upper-north regions).
- MSF warns of the lack of crucial equipment needed in the fight against the pandemic. They highlight that 43 African countries (including Cameroon) have less than 5000 intensive care unit beds (5 per 1 million people in contrast to 4000 per 1 million in the EU) and less than 2000 functional ventilators.
- The health system as a whole is scored on the lower end by vulnerability indices developed by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and a recent study in the Lancet, 2020 (Infectious Disease Vulnerability Index & State Party Self-Assessment Annual Reporting score).
- Press freedom and government transparency also have room for improvement. This may hamper open dialogue from different sectors of society which may prevent efficient and effective coordination and accountability in combating the virus.
- Given the context of persisting poverty and high informal activity rates, more restrictive measures may lead to economic loss with negative socioeconomic implications.
- There is a risk that the already high levels of domestic and sexual violence (43.2% of women) may increase further due to augmentations in tensions due to the pandemic.
- The pandemic therefore poses a risk to women in particular as they may be more vulnerable due to numerous factors: increased domestic and sexual violence, high informal employment, reduced access to sexual and reproductive health services and increased burden of care for children, the elderly and housework.
Potential actions and demands
- Opposition politicians have criticized the government’s response, particularly the response of President Paul Biya of being absent. In fact, a social media campaign was conducted in early April urging Paul Biya to give a national address similar to other heads of states on the continent.
- A debate is ongoing on the setting up of solidarity funds to help alleviate the health and socioeconomic impacts of the virus. The government insists that none other than the government can set up such funds according to Cameroonian law. Opposition politicians and other actors that have set up funds are persisting with their funds despite this. Both sides accuse each other of playing politics in a time of crises.
- The UN has called for ceasefires in conflicts such as the separatist movements (Ambazonia war of independence) in the north-west and south-west of Cameroon to “help create corridors for life-saving aid”. However, the Ambazonia governing council has stated that there will be no unilateral ceasefire. Equally, the Cameroonian authorities have not issued any intent for a ceasefire.
- The International Red Cross has called for increased support and funding for the refugee and displaced population.
- Cameroon has not yet benefited from the World Bank dedicated COVID-19 Fast-Track Facility, but we can reasonably assume their pandemic response project is in progress.
- MTN Cameroon announced the suspension, effective Friday, 20 March 2020, of the payment of fees on money transfers between MTN Mobile Money accounts. MTN Cameroon, by suspending the payment of money transfer fee Money accounts, seeks to provide its support in the fight against this Coronavirus, by reducing the use of cash as much as possible, and favoring distance payments.
Contributor(s): Kevin Henkens.