Buea (National Times)-The fate of children within the age range of 0 to 59 months trapped in forests across Cameroon’s restive North West and South West Regions remains unknown as a national vaccination campaign against poliomyelitis and other diseases goes underway across the country this Friday March 29.
Statements from the minister of Public Health Manaouda Malachie and other public health officials across the North West and South West Regions have remained mute as to how children trapped in the conflict area will be vaccinated.
Already, there will be a delay in the exercise across the two English-speaking Regions given the ghost town operations observed in honour of separatists’ leaders appearing before the military tribunal in Yaounde. The exercise is expected to last two days.
Thousands of families have erected semi-permanent structures in the forests as they escape the regular crossfire between security forces and suspected separatists’ fighters.
The exercise targets some 6,442, 024 children within the age bracket of zero to 59 months. The children will be given the oral polio vaccine.
In the South West Region, the Public health boss Dr. Victor Njie Mbome had on March 26th during preparations for the exercise explained that, children of 6 to 59 months will also be given supplementary vitamin A while those of 12 to 59 months will be administered mebendazole.
Mbome acknowledged the challenging atmosphere but assured that, officials will identify with the population. “ we will adopt a door-to-door strategy because that is the best way to reach out to as many children as possible”. Schools, churches, bus stations and other places of public concentration will be visited by the vaccination teams.
The current vaccination campaign the health official explained will protect children and pregnant women against 12 other diseases among which are tuberculosis, tetanus, measles and others. The danger of what might befall those in the bushes who may not be reached during such campaigns is what public health experts fear could pose a threat to public health in the future. Already, reports of scores of children dying of treatable diseases in the bushes because of the same conflict abound. Other countries within the CEMAC sub Region are also carrying out a similar exercise.
It will be a herculean task to reach out to children across villages wherein institutions of community mobilisation such as chiefs’ palaces and churches have been grounded.