Cameroon has an extremely high infant and child mortality rate: almost one out of eight children dies before reaching the fifth year of life.
Children die for illnesses generally linked to precarious hygienic and social conditions, the main killers being diarrhea, malaria, pneumonia. Tetanus too used to pose a big risk, especially for newborns, since it could easily be transmitted during delivery in an unhealthy environment. Nevertheless, the grim picture has also a good angle: in 2012 Cameroon has been declared “tetanus free” thanks to the many health centres which have been dysplaying a tremendous effort in order to establish a vaccination programm involving mothers and children. We’ve visited some of these centres and have conducted interviews with nurses, mothers, pregnant women, social workers, village chiefs. Beside the antitetanus campaign, we have witnessed how vaccinations and antimalarial drugs are being made available to the poorest. It’s far from enough to make drugs economically affordable: the real challenge is to bring the mothers and children to the health centres, and the health centres to the mothers and children. One has to persuade the community (especially women) that vaccines are useful and health centres are worth being visited. How to do it? Sometimes with words, sometimes with pictures, sometimes with some gospel music.
In Cameroon you often cannot be a health worker without being at the same time a kind of social performer.