By Aurore Bonny
LOME, Togo (AA) – Cameroon's health minister highlighted the difficulties and challenges of universal health coverage and vaccination against the coronavirus during a special plenary session Wednesday at the National Assembly.
"The rate of vaccination against COVID-19 is still very low. The overall objective of the introduction of the COVID-19 vaccine is to vaccinate at least 80% of vulnerable target populations by December 2021," said Manaouda Malachie, as quoted by national television.
However, in front of parliamentarians, he said the 25,000 health personnel available to his ministry are insufficient to provide adequate health services nationwide.
"For effective service," he said the health sector needs "more than 75,000 health workers" as well as "health experts in several fields.”
According to Malachie, the Cameroonian state has "many constraints" and cannot immediately think of the upgrading of health personnel.
"But we are in favor of this idea," he said.
Responding to the recommendation of Deputy David Nanfouo on the consumption of traditional pharmacopoeia products, the head of public health said "we must proceed with great caution.”
Malachie said Cameroonians who have used the vaccines so far "are doing well."
"I think they are morally safer than those who have not been vaccinated," he said.
With more than 80,000 cases of COVID-19 confirmed as of June 11, a 96% cure rate and 1.6% case fatality rate, Cameroon plans to intensify and expand its vaccination campaign.
From June 7-11, Malachie plans to expand the vaccination target to all people over 18 years of age. This will differ from the current campaign, which targets health personnel and people over 50, which was launched on April 11 this year.
He is also relying on community health workers to visit households and raise awareness and on the multiplication of vaccination centers.
The management of the crisis in general and especially that of the funds allocated to the fight against the pandemic in Cameroon by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are a daily topic in the local press. Suspicions of embezzlement and misappropriation of these funds have been raised in a scandal called "Covidgate.”
In April 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) asked Cameroonian authorities to conduct a "credible" investigation. This request followed the announcement by the government of the creation of an audit group and the opening of a judicial investigation into the alleged actors and accomplices of embezzlement.
"The lack of transparency and independence of government agencies in Cameroon poses a significant challenge to the credibility of these processes and the respect of procedures," HRW said.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the amount of money received from donors in Africa for managing the health crisis has been more specific than management reports, according to various surveys.
Apart from Cameroon, millions of dollars intended for the purchase of medical equipment have "disappeared" in Kenya. In Malawi, several officials have been arrested for embezzling millions of euros, while in South Africa, the phenomenon of "Covidpreneurs" highlights the corruption in the fight against the pandemic.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has meanwhile recently expressed concern about COVID-19 cases "rising" on the continent.
According to Matshidiso Moeti, the director of the WHO Africa Office, "the trajectory of the increase in cases is sobering and should spur everyone to urgent action."