A Cry for Help! The Case of Ikweri Village of Njikwa
Authors: Achu Victorine and Bolima Nancy (HEDECS Cameroon)
Njikwa Council is found in Njikwa sub division in Momo Division of the North West Region. It is located within the grassland savannah area of the mountainous western highland region and forest zone of Cameroon. It is considered a transitional zone as it terminates the savannah grass of the North West Region and begins the forest area of the South West Region. It is situated about 64km from Bamenda. It is bounded by Menchum Division to the north and to the east by Mezam Division and Mbengwi Central Sub Division, while to the west it is surrounded by Widikum Sub Division and to the south by Ngie Sub Division. The entire sub division covers a land surface area of about 685 square kilometers. According to the recent population and housing census (2005), the council population is 16,634 with men 8,126 and 8,508 for women. It is made up of 09 villages as follows; Oshie, Ngwo, Konda, Bassa, Bakwa, Ikweri, Banya, Ekwebo, Bako. They are all enclaved, no roads, no social amenities nor development.
HEDECS was recruited by the PNDP program to carry out a council diagnosis in this area which involved going into all the nine villages that make up Njikwa Sub division to come out with a council development plan for the area. This falls under the decentralization process in Cameroon to give power to the councils to develop their areas.
Moving through these villages of Njikwa, HEDECS team realized how these villagers suffer when it comes to health care. They have far off health centers such that before getting to one, a patient might die on the way just because of the difficulties in the 9 villages being so enclave with limited health facilities. In the entire Njikwa there are 5 health centers. HEDECS field staff witnessed a situation where a corpse was carried on the head from Ngwo village to Ikweri village a distance of about 6km and from one quarter of the village to the other due to no vehicles and no medical attention.
A corpse carried on shoulders to the village A corpse lying on a bamboo stretcher
Ikeweri is one of the 7 villages comprising the forest zone and has a different climate from the other villages that don’t belong to the forest zone. It has a population of 1,550 inhabitants and it consists of 11 quarters that make up the village. It is ruled by a Fon and when the Fon is not around the village council takes responsibility.
Agriculture is their main source of income and with their fertile land; tons of cash and food crops can come out from this area. But due to too much labour and no medical attention they slow down getting idle in order to avoid getting sick.
Local herbs are the only means of medication used in this village and if the situation gets worse the next thing will be death because they have no way to go for medical help.
Doing the diagnosis in this village, we realized there is a high rate of water borne diseases and the main cause of death in this village. Morbidity is very high.
The children suffer from malnutrition and die from health related diseases. Due to lack of experts and health centers most children under 5 years have not been immunized and the population is unaware of proper nutrition.
HEDECS team spent 3 days in Ikeweri having the villagers in a common place to come out with their village problems and prioritizing them from the first to the last. Tools used were semi structured interview, data collection forms, drawing of the village map and coming out with the Venn diagram of the village.
The diagnosis was done through a participatory approach because even the voice of the voice less was heard and all the opinions were debated upon and a final conclusion was agreed by the entire village present
A cross section of the Ikweri community during the village diagnosis
At the end of the diagnosis, the villagers realized that the only means to better function and to have a sustainable economy is to have a health unit to take care of their health.
They also realized that, they don’t have enough work force because they are afraid to work too much in order not to get sick.
In prioritizing their problems in the various ministries, health was their priority. They badly need this health center to reduce the high rate of water borne diseases and death rate. (Morbidity and mortality rate)
By the end of the three days and in subsequent working visits, the villagers saw the great need to visit the nearest health center before their conditions gets too critical. Also preventive measures were taken by them to treat their water before drinking and to keep their environment clean as preventive measures. Good health will enable them better protect their families in order to do the lone activity that gives them income (farming)
There is need for collaboration and connection of capacities and resources in order to have sustainable development within local communities.
There is also need to upscale to other communities who don’t have the privilege to enjoy the benefits of affordable health care services
‘My people die a lot due to lack of medical care please you people should help us’ says the Fon of Ikweri village during the diagnosis