After only a few days in Banso, Cameroon, I was finally able to take a trip to some of the rural villages where Primary Healthcare Centers are located. At each of these Primary Healthcare Centers, Promoters and ComCHAs are trained to learn to diagnosis and treat basic illnesses common to the area, as well as to perform health education, screening, and prenatal care. I was able to travel with a Nurse Field Supervisor to three different villages over an eight day period.
The first village I visited was called Kitfumen, and was about a two hour ride away from where I am staying, over very bumpy and hilly roads. This village is known for its sweet pineapple and, as I found out, even sweeter people. In this village I got my first taste of the favorite Cameroonian dish of corn fufu and jama-jama, I experienced using my first pit toilet, I learned the importance of sleeping with a mosquito net, and I tried my first (and hopefully last) bite of cow skin.
The next village I visited, Kichowi, proved even more difficult to get to, requiring four hours of hiking through the mountains before crossing a hanging bridge to reach it. In this village I was really able to see a whole new side of healthcare. We gave hundreds of yellow fever vaccinations, tons of HIV screening tests, drained abscesses, saw more cases of malaria in one day than I have in my entire lifetime, and treated patients who had walked for more than an hour to seek care. The overwhelming need for healthcare, yet lack of resources to obtain it was very apparent. Sick people were everywhere, yet could not afford to see a doctor, or those who could had to use all the money they had just to pay for their medications. Simple and treatable illnesses became deathly because of this.
Finally, after hiking back out of Kichowi, I was able to visit the village of Ngai. This village sat high up in the mountains and you almost felt as if you were in an airplane when taking in the view of the valley below. At this Primary Health Center, we were able to do HIV testing and education, patient consults, and give out medications. But despite the ever-present malnutrition and sickness, what really struck me was the joy and kindness that permeated despite the circumstances. The simple things like a greeting, a hug, or a group of 50 school children learning to play Simon Says brought so much excitement and joy to the people. They persevered, they fought hard, and they would not allow defeat.
This is one of the things that has stood out to me the most while I have been here: resilience. There are so many hardships, trials, and difficulties surrounding many of these people each and every day. But no matter how many times life throws them a punch, they get back up and fight back. These people are brave, they are fighters, they are resilient.
This trip to the villages allowed me to see a whole different side of healthcare and of life. I wouldn’t trade these experiences for anything and I cannot wait for all of the other adventures in Cameroon to come!