YAOUNDE - The military hospital in Cameroon's capital, Yaounde, is overwhelmed with wounded Cameroon and Chadian troops of the regional force currently working to rout Boko Haram from its strongholds in Nigeria and border areas. The hospital has a capacity of 200 beds, but about two times the number are seeking medical attention there.
Martin Chengwa says he collapsed after six members of his 10-person unit were killed during raids on the town of Achgachia that straddles the border with Nigeria. The 26-year-old Cameroonian soldier was rushed to the military hospital in Yaounde.
"I have a problem of just confusion because I saw some of my friends that were dead but now I am okay. I am still hoping to go back. I have been here since December,” he said.
Wounded Chadian and Cameroonian soldiers
He comes here for check-ups two times a week. This hospital takes in Chadian and Cameroonian soldiers wounded in the regional fight against Boko Haram. The Nigerian militant group began carrying out attacks in Cameroon, Niger and Chad last year.
Chadian soldier Nagash Salim is here recovering from a fractured arm and an amputated leg.
He says he remembers he got shot near his chest in a Boko Haram ambush in Limani on Cameroon's border with Nigeria. He says he is surprised he is still alive.
The hospital has less than 200 beds, but more than 400 military personnel and civilians are being treated here.
Government to cover bills
Cameroonian soldier Derick Langmie says when they complained the hospital is overwhelmed, the defense minister visited to encourage them and promised that the government would settle all of their hospital bills.
"He talked much that we should have courage," he said. "My accident occurred in a place called Walash after we attacked. Two days after the attacked, my illness occurred. My treatment began from Mora [and] Maroua, and today I am in Yaounde."
Cameroon's defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, says soldiers whose conditions are deemed non-life-threatening have been asked to go home, returning for appointments with specialists as needed.
He says the wounded troops are proud of the work they have done and have high morale. He says they are even asking to go back to the front after their treatment. He says he has given firm instructions to hospital staff to take special care of the soldiers.
The regional four-nation force counts nearly 10,000 men. Their efforts have chased Boko Haram out of many towns of villages, but continued use of landmines and suicide bombings by insurgents have kept casualties high.
A top Cameroonian military commander says a new operation launched this week and code-named “Tentacle” aims to flush Boko Haram out of one the group's key remaining strongholds, the Sambisa forest. The general, Jacob Kodji, said the operation involves thousands of Cameroonian and Nigerian troops working on both sides of the border.