By Njodzeka Danhatu
The Japanese Government, on February 18 this year, signed a financing agreement with Cameroon, in which they granted circa FCFA 1.5 billion to help rebuild certain infrastructures in Fako Division that have also suffered from the on-going conflict in the two Anglophone Regions.
According to CRTWeb, the funding agreement was signed by the Japanese Ambassador to Cameroon, Osawa Tsutomu; the Minister of Economy, Planning and Regional Development, Alamine Ousmane Mey; and the Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Jean Luc Stalon.
Signed in the presence of Cameroon’s Prime Minister, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute, the funds will be used to construct drinking water supply infrastructure and support projects to rehabilitate health centres in the Fako Division.
According to sbbc.com, about 10 drinking water supply points and about 15 health centres will be rehabilitated.
Japan, at the time of this report, is still the first partner of Cameroon to materialise her support to the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the Northwest and Southwest Regions, PPRD-NW/SW. The regions have been devastated by an armed conflict that has been going on for nearly five years.
As part of its media responsibility, and also to properly make sure that the funds are used for the intended purpose, The Post carried out an investigation in some Subdivisions in Fako, namely Muyuka, Tiko and Buea Subdivisions, which are in a dire need of potable water and health care.
Tiko Subdivision & Water Challenges
The problem of water in Tiko Subdivision is not new. As per 2012 statistics, the Subdivision has about 78,885 in population. The subdivision has so many villages and has also been hard hit by the on-going armed conflict rocking the two English-speaking Regions of Cameroon.
During a tour of Tiko Subdivision on February 26 and March 4, The Post found out that Tiko Town, aside from villages, has potable water which is being supplied by the water management company, Camwater. But, according to locals, despite the bills they are paying, the water has a brown colour. The water, they said, is used mostly for cooking, washing and other purposes. As a result, many residents have resorted to buying processed mineral water, but those who cannot afford it are compelled to drink the “dirty brown” water of Camwater.
A visit to some of the public taps in the area proved that some public taps are not running. Our bike man, who is a Street Seven resident, said they always go far into CDC camps before they can fetch good drinking water. He told us that the water Camwater supplies to them is dirty and, when they drink it, they have runny stomach.
He further stated that the population will be very happy if supplied with potable water.
“Tiko has two problems; “water and light,” he said.
At the Palace of the 2nd Class Chiefdom of Tiko, and talking with the Chief, HRH Nanjo Wome, the pipe from Camwater was coincidentally leaking heavily and wasting, running down the road.
The Chief had heard about the Japanese funding and the politics some Cameroonians are trying to play with it. He asked why people would want funds to be diverted from his people on grounds that their locality is not destroyed like other places.
He said, like any other town, “We are suffering from water issues.”
“We buy water in Tiko. The water running and wasting on the ground like this is the one we buy. So, the Japanese say they want to come and do maintenance, and Fako will refuse?” he questioned.
He said they don’t have any choice but to drink the water supplied by Camwater. To him, not everybody has the money to buy mineral water or construct a borehole. He controls 17 quarters, but not every quarter has the fortune of constructing a borehole. He said, in the villages under him, water is alarmingly scarce.
At the Tiko Council, in a one-on-one with the 3rd Deputy Mayor, Elmina Mukwele Ayibe, The Post learned that, due to the dirty brown colour of water Camwater supplies, public boreholes were constructed, but most are bad and not functioning.
She said the population rather fetches good drinking water from CDC camps, or buys the processed one in bottles. According to her, some areas in the municipality, like Mutengene and Ombe, have their community water which they manage alongside the Council.
“We need help,” she said.
Asked whether the council did not budget to look at the issue of water and health, she said they have constructed boreholes and some water catchments, but these are not sufficient. Mungo areas and Tiko are still lacking water, she said.
She said there are still places, like Mgwenga and Mundoni, that the Council intends to construct boreholes. In some villages, the people rely on streams for drinking water, some of which make them vulnerable to diseases like Cholera.
During a visit, on March 4, to Missaka, which shares boundaries with Banaberi Council in Douala, The Post found that these areas have vigilant police to keep the locals safe. There, the Chief, HRH Daniel Dipoko, said the issue of water is still a challenge. He is hoping to do more to make sure that the locality has good drinking water.
We visited some taps which were poorly constructed some years back. The taps were running at the time, but they often don’t. About this, the 3rd Deputy Mayor said: “We need assistance.”
Tiko Health Infrastructure; No Equipment
Tiko has only one district hospital. The inhabitants, mostly those who can afford it, rely on two private hospitals which are located in Mutengene.
Government-owned health facilities are seemingly abandoned. The Tiko Integrated Health Centre, we learned, was officially opened this January 12, since construction. Although the Councillor in charge of the facility was not on seat, one of the nurses, Therese Bakina, showed us around.
Some of the rooms were empty; no bed, no equipment, nothing at all.
The Children’s Ward had only one bed; the Male Ward, 1 bed; Female Ward, no bed, Maternity Ward, 2 beds; Family Planning was empty; Theatre, nothing inside.
No air condition, no equipment in the laboratory, only a handful of drugs in the Pharmacy.
In one of the rooms, we met a girl who was admitted into the male ward because there is no bed in the female ward. The Nurse, plus us, found her lying on the floor because she could not contain the heat, as she explained.
Our source told us that they only administer first aid treatment and refer any case to the District Hospital.
The facility lacks potable water. The nurses trek for long to fetch water for the health centre.
“We need more equipment. There is no water supply here. We usually go and fetch water. We give first aid. We do handle cases here just for two days,” she said.
According to a document presented to us, the hospital has only 16 staff, but, at the time of our visit, there were only two. Due to a shortage of beds, they do admit patients, but schedule them to be staying at home and coming for treatment.
Seemingly Abandoned Tiko District Hospital
Located at the Tiko-Douala Road, the hospital is grappling with security issues: no fence, only two private security agents. Accessibility is a big problem as the bridge linking Tiko Town and the area is in ruins. Other minor roads are untarred and very dusty. The hospital has no mortuary.
We were received by the Hospital General Supervisor, Damasius Elone Epie, who led us in a tour of all the rooms and wards.
In a document The Post obtained, which had, for years, been presented to the authorities as the challenges of the hospital, we realised that, out of the 13 structures, seven are dilapidated and abandoned, while the few that are still in use have poor roofing.
Structures like the Theatre (male and female surgical), Maternity (including toilets), TB Unit, Private Unit, Laundry are completely dilapidated and in a pathetic situation.
The General Supervisor told us that thieves broke in and stole equipment from the theatres, which have been abandoned completely.
Other structures like administrative (laboratory, pharmacy, OPD, Directors/Doctors offices, triage and revenue offices, maternity, medical pediatric, GS office, Doctor’s building, need serious rehabilitation.
The equipments are few. Rooms that could take 12 or 16 beds are taking two or four. There is no air conditioning in the entire hospital. They rely on fans majority of which are bad.
The laboratory cannot even boast of a single computer, not to talk of other equipment.
The whole hospital has only one blood bank and the operating theatre is not enough.
Three are rooms for pharmacy, but the authorities in the region have used the main pharmacy to store large quantities of Mosquito nets. From our estimation, they are about 200 packets and they seem to have been there for years, without distribution.
Only one room is used for emergency, one room for delivery, one room for physiotherapy and two rooms for hospitalisation.
Some facilities inside are completely not functioning, look very dirty and under no roof.
These challenges have seen the number of patients drop drastically as many people no longer visit the hospital. According to the GS, the hospital cannot even boast of 400 patients in a month.
During our tour, we found some material aimed at constructing COVID-19 tents which have been locked inside some dilapidated structures.
We were told that the regional authorities brought them from Limbe and Buea and locked them inside and no structure for COVID-19 was constructed.
The hospital lacks specialists; there is only one. No single ambulance or service car. No generator. When electricity from ENEO is disconnected, there is total blackout.
“Even to refer a patient to Buea or Limbe, we don’t have a taxi,” said the General Supervisor.
“The highest number of structures are dilapidated, even in terms of personnel, personnel in Tiko District Hospital is too small,” he said.
“We need a dentist, paediatrician, surgeons, but we don’t have any specialist doctor,” he added.
Most of those challenges he presented had earlier been explained to us by the 3rd Deputy Mayor of Tiko.
“The medical problems here are too many. Council’s income to provide such has been reduced by the crisis which has sent so many taxpayers out of businesses,” Elmina Mukwele lamented. She said most IDPs, especially females in the municipality, are suffering from health issues, but cannot have medical care.
On February 26, The Post travelled to Muyuka Municipality that has been badly affected. Places like Ekona and Munyenge are practically deserted. The water problem is severe. There are no boreholes. The people rely on community water and streams. The pressure from the few catchments areas, like the one in Malteti, is slow and too small to supply the population.
In Muyuka Central, we saw only two public taps that are running. People come from distant places to fetch water. The people from Yoke and Malende are suffering. At one of the taps located just beside the Muyuka Market, we met so many people who came from far-away places to fetch water.
According to Regina Tambe, who always leaves Yoke daily to fetch water from Muyuka Central, Yoke has been for four years without water, because of the Anglophone Crisis.
To her, for them to have water, they pay at least a FCFA 1,000 for bike riders to come and fetch the water and bring to them to Yoke, on daily bases.
“Yoke people are suffering. We are pleading to the Government to help us so that Yoke people can have water, because, we are really dying,” she said.
“We prefer water to food,” she added. She said they can sort themselves if they have water.
She said the stream they sometimes rely on is far away in the valley, and it is not hygienic for human consumption. The stream water can cause us fever and cholera.”
To go back after fetching the water is not easy. The hill, she added, has left some with injuries because they easily fall from the slope.
“It is risky to go down to the valley. We are begging on the Government to consider us. Even though we are facing a crisis, water is necessary for us,” she said, adding that, when they are coming to buy, one person holds 10 gallons just to fetch water along.
A woman and mother, Christiana Ayuk, who came from Malende, told The Post that their taps stop running and were fixed, but they are scared of drinking the water from the taps. She said the water has not been treated.
“As we are fetching water from here now, they are worrying us to pay tax, transport and the rest,” she complained.
The water in Malende is coming right away from Owe, but the crisis pushed those managing it to stop treating it and that is why they are scared.
To know what the municipality has been doing with regards to water, The Post met the Mayor of Muyuka, Lazare Landjinou Djomgoue, who presented the statistics of the damage done to all villages in Muyuka as assessed by the PPRD officials.
He stated that Muyuka, at the beginning of the crisis, was “… a red zoon, but that is not the case now.”
He said, inside Fako Division, Muyuka is has been hard hit. Ekona is a glaring example. Munyenge, Bafia, Ekata, Owe, Mautu, Malende, Mpundo are some of the areas hard hit too by the crisis.
“Even before the crisis, Muyuka had a problem of water,” he said.
He said the catchment in Malteti is the only one supplying water to Muyuka. He said it was built when Muyuka had not developed.
“Now that Muyuka is developed, the catchment is too small to serve the whole population.” He added that the water lacks the pressure to climb from Upstranger Quarter to Malende and Yoke.
He added: “Sometimes, the pressure cannot push it up to my toilet (his office is on the second floor).”
Some of our villages don’t have water: Ekata, Malende and Yoke. “The population does leave from there to come and fetch water in the central town. They are suffering,” the Mayor stated.
Muyuka Healthcare Challenges
The health care situation, as we learnt from the Mayor, is very challenging.
“The Muyenge, Bafia, Ekata and Malende Health Centres are not functioning and need rehabilitation,” he said.
According to the Mayor, those hospitals shut down because “… the Amba removed everything.”
The Mayor said the Muyuka District Hospital needs furnishing. The health unit was partially burnt down in 2019. The incident was blamed on both Separatist fighters and the military.
The Mayor said the hospital does not have a good theatre. He added that the hospital in Ekona is functioning but lacks equipment to operate.
With about 130,000 inhabitants, the Mayor said the Muyuka District Hospital is too small for that population.
“We need a reference hospital,” he said, adding that he had talks with the Director of the Hospital, Dr. Joseph Bah, about the possibility of transferring the hospital to a big site.
The Post Denied Access To Muyuka District Hospital
At the Muyuka District Hospital, which The Post visited to ascertain the level of services, the Director of the hospital, Dr Joseph Bah, welcomed us in his office. When we explained our mission there, he immediately called the Southwest Regional Delegate of Public Health, Dr Zacchaeus Ebongo, who instructed him not to talk to us. We tried to enquire what was amidst, but he said off the mic that he could not tell whether the hospital had challenges or not. He said he might say something contrary to what his boss might want to hear.
Despite his denial or letting us inside the rooms, we observed that his office is too tiny and the hospital premises is too tight.
We tried to ask residents around the hospital. Some said the hospital is in such a way that one cannot know what is going on. The Director said we came on a day that many patients were not in the hospital.
The water crisis in Buea did start today. Camwater is the lone water supply company in the municipality. But the taps (public taps) hardly run. Recently, we moved from one public tap to the other in Buea; Bakweri town; Buea Town; Great Soppo; Bunduma; Mile 18 and Bomaka. We noticed that the taps were often not running. Most of them, like the ones in Bomaka, are completely bad and abandoned.
The people of Bomaka now rely on streams which are very unkempt and borehole water sold by some lucky Individual homes.
Residents, like those around Molyko, rely on the taps running on the campus of the University of Buea.
Those located where the taps are not running, go very far, to places like Bwitingi and Biaka, before they can have the precious liquid.
Now, many well-to-do inhabitants have resulted in constructing boreholes that are powered by electricity. In some cases, electricity goes off for days, rendering localities relying on boreholes without water.
The Buea Council, in an effort to supply water, has constructed a few public boreholes in the town. Despite this, water remains a challenge in the municipality.
Inhabitants of localities like Mile 15, 16 and Muea, mostly rely on streams as a source of water.
On March 2, The Post went to the Council two times to book an interview with Mayor David Mafany Namange, but he was not on seat. After presenting our mission, the receptionist referred us to the 3rd Deputy Mayor, who equally referred us to the 1st Deputy Mayor, Minerva Akawoh epse Molinge, but she aggressively chased us out of her office, immediately this reporter presented himself as a journalist from The Post.
What Became Of Biya’s 2014 Visit Water Project?
In 2014, when President Biya was to visit Buea for the 50th anniversary of the Runification, a project involving huge sums was engaged that would supply the municipality with potable water. The authorities said the issue of water was going to become a problem of the past.
In that 2014, huge sums of money were used to buy huge pipes that were laid from Small Soppo to Great Soppo – the digging and laying of which created a lot of inconvineience for both motorists and pedestrians – but they were consoled by the hope of having regular and safe water. But, after Biya’s visit, the project was abandoned, just like several other projects in Cameroon. Roads projects are a good example.
The Post has covered Buea’s water crisis extensively (ref. issues Nos: 02081, 02028, 01941 and 02091.
Water problems are not exclusive to the slopes of the Mount Fako. The three Subdivisions in the seaside urban metropolis of Limbe are also innundated by the water crisis. As reported by The Post Limbe Bureau Chief: “The Regional Delegate for the Ministry of Water and Energy for the Southwest, Maurice Atabongfack, has disclosed that a request for materials needed to fix installations and ensure ample supply of water to Limbe has already been made to the Camwater General Manager, Gervais Bolenga, in Douala” (The Post No. 02164).
Buea Health Facilities
The Southwest Regional Hospital is based in Buea. But there are also privately equipped hospitals based in the municipality. The people around Bokwoango and Muea rely on integrated health centres.
On March 3, The Post was at the Muea Government Medical Hospital. We did not meet the Director to get the challenges facing the facility. But we observed that the hospital lacks space for infrastructure. Muea is one of the hot spots of insecurity in the Municipality but we met only one private security agent on the premises.
The fence is still under construction. We cannot ascertain the number of personnel, but nurses were seen in their jackets around 8.30am cleaning the floor – an indication that there are no cleaners. The environment really needs rehabilitation.
To get a panoramic view of the healthcare sitution in the entire Fako Division, we went to the Regional Delegation of Public Health, Dr. Zacchaeus Ebongo. We also wanted to know why he would not let the Director of Muyuka District Hospital, Dr. Joseph Bah, talk to us. When we arrived at the Delegation, the people at his secretariat said he was not in his seat.
Where We Have Not Been?
We also talked to many people who have wondered how this rehabilitation and construction of portable water would be possible when peace has not yet returned to some of these places still marred by armed conflict.
The Mayor of Muyuka told us that he hopes reconstruction should be true reconstruction, as they hope that the crisis will soon end.
public tap at Muyuka central
washing place at Tiko Hospital, in shams without roofing
Bunduma Public without water running
Abandoned and dilapidated pediatric centre in Tiko District Hospictal
partial view of tiko intergrated health centre without equipment
GS, Tiko District Hospital