World News / Africa

Cameroon Blames Pentecostals for Backpedaling Anti-polio Crusade

Cameroon launched a polio vaccination campaign for 6.2 million children this year. Volunteers (above) administered the vaccine in Nigeria in 2005.
Cameroon launched a polio vaccination campaign for 6.2 million children this year. Volunteers (above) administered the vaccine in Nigeria in 2005.
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
The government of Cameroon has conducted another crackdown on Pentecostal churches. The second attack came after the Ministry of Health charged earlier this year that leaders of some Pentecostal churches are partly responsible for the country’s faltering efforts to exterminate poliomyelitis.

The closures follow the government shut-down of more than 100 Pentecostal churches that lacked government authorization to operate. In that earlier move, authorities blamed Pentecostals for what they called anti-social practices - deadly exorcisms, separation and divorces, nighttime uproars and the extortion of naïve worshippers.

Until late last year, Cameroon appeared to be polio-free. But between September and November, health officials were dumb-founded following the detection of four cases of wild poliovirus in the West Region. 

The findings raised concerns that polio has returned to a country that 25 years after it launched a successful eradication drive.

Dr. Marie Ekobela, coordinator of the National Immunization Program in the Ministry of Health, blames hardline Pentecostal doctrines for the polio-resurgence.

“The first case was detected in a 7-year-old child in September. That’s unusual because a 7-year-old should have been vaccinated. The kid belonged to a family wherein the grandfather is an official with a Pentecostal church and who doesn’t want to hear anything about vaccination. So this child was not immunized and her infection was the source of this epidemic.”
 
Lame youth blames her Pentecostal mother
 
Delphine Manka’a, the 15-year-old daughter of a Pentecostal church-going mother in the largest city, Douala, has not walked since she was two.  Lame in both legs, she is restricted to a wheelchair and crutches.

Polio is spread by direct exposure to carriers of the virus who have eaten foods contaminated with the feces or saliva droplets of already infected persons. The virus assaults the central nervous system, causing mild or total paralysis of muscles in the limbs, neck, abdomen or the face. 

Listen to Ntaryike Divine's interviews about poliomyelitis
Listen to Ntaryike Divine's interviews about poliomyelitisi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

Manka’a says it has been hard to pardon her mother who refused to allow her immunization against the highly contagious disease.

“I wouldn’t be paralyzed if she had let me get the vaccine when I was young,” said the youth. “It was only after my case that she decided to go against the church belief, which does not accept vaccination.  My two brothers are all fine because they were vaccinated.”

Health experts agree the hardline Pentecostal dogma against immunization and vaccination-apathy that exists among some Muslim communities are roadblocks in Cameroon’s protracting struggle against polio.
 
Targeting 6.2 million children
 
In January, the government organized a counter-offensive to the outbreak with a nationwide door-to-door immunization campaign targeting over 6.2 million children aged zero to ten years.  It was the first of three interventions lined up for first three months of 2014.

Inoculators reported slight slumps in resistance associated with cultural beliefs, concerns over vaccine-safety and rumors claiming the vaccines are intended to render African children barren.

“Several people are still hesitant even though the vaccines are given free of charge,” said Fokou, a vaccination supervisor in Douala. “In my coverage area, I did not really experience resistance so to speak, but hesitation. 

People don’t easily fathom the reason for the repeated campaigns and so are a bit suspicious. But once we explain that it’s because four cases were detected last year and could spread countrywide, most understand and let us into their homes.

Across the country, healthworkers are formulating assorted charm offensives in bids to boost vaccination coverage rates.   
 
Offering mothers soap as bait
 
Ernestine Rose Tsafack, a health district service head in Douala, told VOA they offer mothers an incentive to bring their children in for vaccinations. “We think this is stimulating them.”

A similar bait in the mainly Muslim North Region enabled an over 90 percent coverage rate. But observers reckon the likelihood of a complete eradication in Cameroon in the near future appears remote.

Dr. Ekobela says their challenges include health threats from their neighbors. “Since the start of 2013, there has been a steady influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic and there’s no guarantee that these people are polio-free. 
“Also, there’s the fact that some parents don’t respect vaccination calendars and on our side, healthcare delivery is scaled down by the lack of sufficient funds.”

She says if surveillance gaps are bridged, rapid detection and crossborder diagnosis systems installed and year-long top quality immunization campaigns adopted, polio eradication may be feasible by next year.
This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs