Persons with Disabilities (PWDs) have greeted with gratification the work of Cameroon Baptist Convention (CBC) Health Services in providing exemplary health care. The commendation came on the heels of a free screening campaign organized in the bill up to and during celebrations marking the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD) 2019 in Cameroon.
The week-long health campaign presented an opportunity for PWDs to screen for various health conditions in CBC Health Services’ facilities in some major towns in Cameroon. The screening culminated in a grand outreach at the Centre National de Rehabilitation Des Personnes Vivant Avec Le Handicap (National Center for the Rehabilitation for Persons with Disabilities) Paul Emile Leger Etoug-Ebe, Yaoundé.
Access to health care remains a major problem to many PWDs who live below the poverty line. The situation is even worse in those whose disabilities have rendered then incapacitated, unable to fend for themselves. Mr. Kong David Ngum, a PWD and Chief of Services for Special Inclusive Education, Sports, and Animation at the National Center for the Rehabilitation for Persons with Disabilities says out-of-pocket payment for health care and assistive devices make life very difficult for PWDs. “Just the cost of a wheelchair for those with mobility impairment can render an entire family poor,” he said.
The average cost of a standard wheelchair is FCFA 295,693 ($500 US Dollar) which is seven times the minimum wage in Cameroon. By implication, it will take a minimum wage earner in the country 7-months wages to buy a wheelchair, not to mention those who live virtually on less than a dollar day.
Conjecturing from the firsthand hardship PWDs face accessing health care and acquiring assistive devices, Mr. Kong says initiatives like that of the CBC Health Services to provide free medical consultations to PWDs should not only be limited to international day celebrations. “The life of PWDs is not limited to a number of days. Therefore stakeholders should work hard to let them have these services where and whenever need,” he said.
The IDPWD is a United Nations’ (UN) Day held annually on December 3 to focus on issues that affect people with disabilities worldwide. This is usually under a chosen theme to chart the course for including PWDs in mainstream society. This year’s event was under the international theme, “Promoting the Participation of Persons with Disabilities and their Leadership: taking action on the 2030 Development Agenda”.
Promoting participation warrants that PWDs are fully a part of all policies and actions for them. Mr. Bonkung Handerson, a person with speech impairment says, “Every person with a disability has the right to inclusion and participation in nation-building.” However for full participation to be a reality “the society at large has to desist from the myth that minor roles are meant for PWDs and focus on their ability to deliver,” said Mr. Bonkung, Editor-In-Chief at the CBC Health Services Communication Unit.
According to Chansiline Nanze, a person with a mobility impairment and Journalist with Cameroon’s National Broadcaster (CRTV) says, PWDs have to see their disability as an opportunity to make a name in the society and surmounting the odds to be successful. “Determination and acceptance are key for the participation of PWDs in the political and social life of the country,” she remarks.
In a keynote address, Mme Pauline Irene Ngene, Cameroon’s Minister of Social Affairs said the move towards an inclusive society in the country is well on course and there has to be strong advocacy to make the future accessible and promising for PWDs. “My Ministry will continue to work in synergy with partner Ministries, private organizations and civil society to translate Government resolutions and policies into actionable strategies that can improve the welfare and lot of PWDs,” she explained
The Minister saluted the services of private organizations like CBC Health Services in promoting and protecting the rights of PWDs. In a tour to exhibition stands at the Centre National de Rehabilitation Des Personnes Vivant Avec Le Handicap Paul Emile Leger Etoug-Ebe, Yaoundé, Mme Irene Nguene made an appraisal of the free screening health campaign, which the CBC Health Services was offering to PWDs. “I am impressed with the work you are doing for Cameroonians. Thank you,” she submitted.
Mr. Yongwa Zacks, Administrator at Etoug-Ebe Baptist Hospital Yaoundé noted that the free screening which started on November 26 to December 3, 2019 allowed for PWDs to check for eye defects, ear, nose and throat problems, hypertension, diabetes, mobility problems, and mental health conditions.
Cameroon has an estimated population of 25-million people according to the world population review. Out this number, 3-million are PWDs constituting 15 percent (%) of the country’s total population. Therefore, taking actions that improve their livelihood will have a great impact on the country’s workforce.
The IDPD 2019 was celebrated in Cameroon under the national theme “The future is Accessible”.