Some readers may be aware of the political unrest in Cameroon which amounts to civil war in the North West. The anglophone secessionists have imposed “ghost Mondays” in which all public transport by taxi or motorbike is blocked by armed men.
This is severely curtailing our work at Banso Baptist Hospital in the far north-west, but new admissions at our main centre, Mbingo Baptist Hospital (MBH), remain high. On my recent visit to Mbingo I found our new eight-bed paediatric oncology ward fully occupied, as were the eight beds in the We Care hostel to which patient and guardian may go between chemotherapies. The system is working efficiently and at full capacity thanks to the dedication of paediatric oncology supervisor Dr Francine Kouya and our superb nursing team at Mbingo Baptist Hospital.
In part to compensate for the loss of activity in the far north-west we have launched a new cancer treatment programme at Mboppi Baptist Hospital in Douala, Cameroon’s most populous city. It is in the francophone south and not directly affected by political unrest. Children with cancer at this hospital were previously referred to one of our other centres, west to Mutengene or north to Mbingo. Two weeks ago an inaugural symposium with teaching by colleagues from Leeds General Infirmary childrens cancer treatment unit was eagerly attended by doctors and staff from Mboppi.
We will begin slowly and carefully treating children with Burkitt’s lymphoma and retinoblastoma only, but this busy hospital is likely to become our main centre of treatment in the South. BTMAT will fund treatment of children on the same basis as at the other Baptist hospitals – covering drug costs and individual hospital bills. This ensures that any mother reaching the hospital with a child with cancer will not be deterred by the prospect of a bill (even though very small by our standards) – but it does mean that our BTMAT trustees are facing the financial challenge of an enlarging programme.
With your help we will rise to the challenge!
Dr Paul Wharin, Feb. 2019