|Family Photo at One Encampment|
Housseini and I recently finished our 3 day polio vaccination campaign en brousse. Given the plethora of polio cases up in the Extreme North, and the 3 cases we diagnosed in Ngatt itself, a nationwide polio campaign was launched…yet again. As I’ve previously mentioned, the experience was disappointing in the fact that it reaffirmed my opinions of the broken/outdated development system, but it was at least fun to see nearby encampments and villages and bond with some people far out en brousse, as well as amusing to see their faces when I start having a conversation with them in Fulfulde!
I’ve always criticized going on these campaigns as a volunteer - it isn’t necessary for us to tag along, since the health center staff is trained to do these campaigns themselves, but it was a great free trip to see Ngatt’s surroundings and to talk with villagers about health, my work, and America, as well as to promote my weekly group meetings in Ngatt.
The first day of the vaccination campaign took us to a Mbororo encampment and the villages of Mbizor, Wandjock and Ngaoumere. On our way to Mbizor, we stopped at a small encampment to vaccinate the 12 kids living there. Despite our stop at this encampment, I noticed that Housseini opted to skip a handful of other encampments, where I’m sure there are children (which is clearly one of the flaws of these campaigns). In addition to the polio vaccine, which is just 3 drops of liquid into a child’s mouth, we also gave out single doses of Vermox and Vitamin A tablets, which children weren’t supposed to eat the encasement, but Housseini insisted that it does no harm…I sure hope so!
After the quick encampment stop, we headed to Mbizor. Mbizor is a cute and quaint small village, but still decently large enough. Mbizor is located on Lake Mbakaou, and Housseini and I walked down to the lake to watch as fishermen made their way back to shore with their catch. We then went to the village center to wait for the children to come for their vaccinations.
After the quick campaign in Mbizor, we headed to Wandjock, a village where I had previously done a sensitization on the Oral-Fecal route, and where I had also had a great talk on behavior change. In Wandjock we handed off the vaccines and pills to the DC/relais communautiare, Amamdou, who then was going to do the vaccinations the following day.
|Fishermen Arriving to Mbizor|
For being so far en brousse, the youth here speak better French than anyone I encounter in Ngatt! It's refreshing to see that where there is no formal education system, there are motivated people such as Amadou, who spend their days teaching children for the betterment of their community. Amadou doesn't see any renumberation for his work, he merely does it as a service to his community. It's small stories like that which give me hope for Cameroon.
As we approached the center of Ngaoumere, the wife of the village chief stopped us to show me the crocodile she caught in the morning and is attempting to sell. She led us to the lake to show us, and I think she was under the impression that I was in the market to buy a crocodile...which I wasn't. After asking her the price, asking when she caught it, I then told her that I couldn't possibly bring a crocodile with me the rest of the day on our campaign. She shrugged and put it back into the water. Never fear, Mr. Croc has since ended up as a pet to someone in Ngatt. Sheesh. After a short visit by the Lake, we continued to the town center, vaccinated, and headed back to Ngatt, but not before receiving some smoked fish from the chief’s wife. As a side note, the fireplace used to smoke the fish would make an awesome hearth to cook pizzas in. If only!
When we finished with them, we made our way to the other nearby encampments, whose names are too long for me to remember. The next encampment was super clean and pristine. We entered through the cattle herding pen and waited with the chief and one of his eldest wives as the children filtered in from the fields. As we packed up to leave, the old woman grabbed my arm and linked it within hers and led me deeper into the encampment, signaling me to film their land. She asked me to take a family photo with her and her grandchildren, and then the chief made me take a family photo of him with his family in front of his house. The buildings in these encampments are so clean and organized, despite being mud and clay. They are also gorgeously painted, often with artistic colorful designs on the exterior. Most encampments practice beekeeping in addition to cattle herding, so there are always a plethora of traditional cylindrical hives lying about.
The next encampment proceeded as usual once again but as I was sitting waiting to give my sensitization schpeel I noticed one of the chief’s wives turn sideways and I saw a huge thing protruding from her chest…kind of like a unicorn horn, or a protruding 3rd nipple. As she approached, I realized, it wasn’t a unicorn horn, but rather a huge cow horn. As I tried not to stare, I wondered if she had been impaled by a cow from behind, and how much that must’ve hurt! But as I kept taking quick glances at her, I realized that that couldn’t have been an accident. Sure enough, I asked Housseini later what that was, and he explained she inserted that in her because of its power and beauty. That day was Halloween and she by far got the most perplexing and slightly terrifying costume award, in my opinion!
While I feel like the vaccination campaign is somewhat of a farce - we miss so many encampments and so many kids - it was at least a memorable trip to various encampments. I’ll always remember that trip as the one where I had my first sips of raw milk, saw a cow horn implanted in a woman’s chest, and where I took a dung bath. You never know what to expect when you live in Cameroon!