Doctors Without Borders has announced the withdrawal of its teams from the North West region of Cameroon, badly hit by a close to five years long Anglophone crisis that has claimed many lives and left thousands in dire need of medical attention.
The decision to withdraw its teams from the region is contained in a release signed Tuesday August 3.
In the release, the international medical humanitarian organisation says it was forced to do so following an eight-month ban on its activities by authorities of the region, on grounds that they were collaborating with separatists and helping them.
“After nearly eight months of suspension by Cameroonian authorities, medical humanitarian organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders(MSF) has been forced to withdraw its teams from the North West region, an area badly affected by years of armed violence between security forces and armed separatist groups…” Part of the release reads.
“We cannot stay any longer in a region where we are not allowed to provide care to people”…Said Emmanuel Lampaert, MSF’s operations Coordinator for Central Africa. “Unfortunately, we cannot keep our staff on stand-by any longer so we have no choice but to withdraw our teams.”
Despite the ban, the organisation has however indicated that it will keep a small liaison office in Bamenda to continue dialogue with the authorities for a possible way out. “The people are paying a heavy price for this situation. If authorities decide to lift our suspension, we will resume our medical activities as soon as possible…”
MSF has been among the few NGOs providing free emergency medical care and ambulance service to the region since 2018 until December 2020 when Cameroonian authorities suspended its activities after accusing the organisation of supporting separatist fighters instead of helping the population, allegations DWB categorically rejected and held meetings with authorities to be allowed to resume activities to no avail.
Before suspending its activities, the Government had on several occasions asked the organisation to remain neutral during interventions in the troubled region.
“This suspension significantly reduces access to medical services in an area where communities are badly affected by armed violence”, Lampaert further says. We hope that the provision of medical humanitarian assistance to everyone, without distinction will still be possible.”