Of computers and palm oil

As usual I am experiencing internet connection problems here in Cameroon I arrived at Douala airport earlier than usual last Saturday and passed through in daylight without hindrance.

I was approached outside the airport by a very persistent group of youths who said “Welcome to Cameroon”, and then tried to grab one of my cases and demanded payment. No problem – I am used to this and know how to deal with it. I met Prof Hesseling at the Catholic Procure later that evening – after listening to some beautiful singing from the chapel there. My 3 days at Baptist Hospital Mutengene (BHM) were productive. I installed a new laptop computer for our research assistant nurse, Patience Nfor. The old one, ex NHS, Linden Ave Surgery, is now defunct. The computer is an essential communication tool. If Dr Edouard or Patience – our workers at BHM – admit a difficult patient (like the one sent by our BMS link missionaries, Andrea and Mark Hotchkin last year) they can consult Prof Hesseling or Peter McCormick or myself and receive a reply within hours or even minutes. We are also trying to build up POND, our paediatric cancer database, though this can be a tedious business for Patience with the erratic internet connection and frequent power cuts. I might add that the computer is anchored by a security cable, purchased in Kettering, which I took to Cameroon.

Dr Edouard delivered us to the home of Patience on Monday evening leaving his car for only a few minutes. He returned to find that a door handle and lock had been removed and his computer and documents stolen. On Tuesday the 8th I visited a “private” bush hosiptal at Lobe palm oil plantation – about 3 hours by car from Mutengene. The doctor there (only one) had previously referred a patient with Burkitt’s lymphoma. We presented our programme strengthening the relationship and also performed a follow up check on a patient (a 6 year old boy) who met us at the hospital. He was clear of the cancer (Burkitt’s) but was suffering an attack of malaria. We paid for his admission to the hospital! Later we bought 10 litres of palm oil for one of our nurses at Banso; a very necessary commodity, it is cheap at this season.

Paul Wharin

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