Cardiologist Advises On Voluntary, Regular Heart-checks

By Leocadia Bongben

To prevent, avoid or postpone premature deaths, Prof. Samuel Kingue President of the Cameroon Cardiac Society urges Cameroonians to, “Take the initiative to go to hospital or a pharmacy to check the blood pressure and sugar level. With about FCFA 1000, one can know the state of the heart and health”.

Many people have high blood pressure yet do not know, and should not wait for free heart screening campaigns to check the health of their hearts, Kingue said during a ceremony at the Ngousso Public School to mark the World Heart Day on September 29.

The day was celebrated under the theme, “I protect my heart and that of my family” with the Minister of Public Health Represented by the Secretary of State at the Ministry of Public Health, Alim Hayatou.

Stakeholders at World Heart Day Celebration

It was an occasion for the Cardiologist to send out heart health tips to the population following the weeklong free screening carried out.

98 adults both staff and other Cameroonians were tested, revealing 19 cases of high blood pressure, 11 who did not know.

Also,1791 younger children who have a high probability of heart malformations were screened in a school of 2,599 pupils.  39 cases were suspected and further tests using high performant equipment, with precision revealed 9 cases of congenital malformations which presently do not require surgery. So, Kingue advised parents to take the children to the hospital for further treatment.

Against this backdrop, the Cardiologist underscored the importance of paying attention to children as he cautioned, “if they complain, don’t wait, feeling pain in the throat, cure with antibiotics”.

Professor David Wood, Cardiologist and President of the World Heart Federation in a message on World heart Day said, “We cannot underestimate the global importance of good heart health – 31% of all deaths worldwide are from CVD.

According to the World Heart Federation, WHF, CVD claims 17.5 million lives every year figures expected to reach 23 million by 2030. Worldwide, 1 in 10 people aged 30-70 die prematurely from CVD, including heart disease and stroke but the good news is that at least 80% of these premature deaths could be avoided or postponed.

Many people are not as lucky as the two football icons, Jean Paul Akono Sidney Olympic Gold Medallist in 2000 and Rigobert Song Bahanag legendary captain who survived heart diseases.

These two have been awarded certificates of chivalry and are now ambassadors of Cameroon Cardiac Society awarded these two certificates of chivalry and made them their ambassadors to sensitise other on cardio vascular diseases, CVD.

Created and led by the WHF the World Heart Day aims to combat the rising number of people with cardiovascular disease (CVD), the world’s biggest killer, by raising awareness and promoting the importance of living a heart-healthy lifestyle.

It is for this reason that the World Heart Federation Boss said, “World Heart Day is our chance to bring people together to tackle the world’s biggest killer and urge more people across the globe to improve their heart health. The power to change is in our hands. Making lifestyle changes such as eating more fruit and vegetables, keeping active and stopping smoking can save millions of lives.”

This year, the “WHF is urging people to act by sharing heart healthy tips and attending iconic illumination events. We can all ‘share the power’ and inspire our families, friends and communities around the world to make the small lifestyle changes that can make a powerful difference to heart health,”.

WHF Tips for a heart-health

  • Become more active: Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intense activity five times a week.
  • Remember even small things like taking the stairs or getting off the bus early can help
  • Stop smoking – this is the single best thing you can do to improve your heart health.
  • If you need help try speaking to a health professional, such as a high street pharmacist
  • A more balanced diet: Try to eat 5 portions (about a handful) of fruit and veg a day
  • Get your children involved in cooking to help them learn about healthy eating
  • Get your blood pressure checked regularly
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Villages Around Dams Risk Disappearing From Black Fly Bite

By Leocadia Bongben

Experts are worried that villages around  dams: Songloulou, Lom Pangar, Mekin, Lagdo and Nachtigal risk disappearing if nothing is done to eliminate the black fly spreading river blindness also known as Oncerchociaisis and other vectors.

Oncerchociasis is an eye and skin disease caused by a worm (filarial) known by the scientific name ‘Onchocerca volvulus’, transmitted through bite. The body of an affected person is completely destroyed and is related with epilepsy and sexual impairment.

Ten years ago a village, in the along the Sanaga river had 150 pupils in a school, today the school has been deserted as the younger generations flees from lacerating bite of the black fly. Agricultural is abandoned leading to reduction of economic activities, as the result is ghost villages as villagers leave to town.

Dr. Pierre Baleguel Nkot, President of the Yaoundé Initiative Foundation, YIF, an NGO that intervenes in the domains of health, agriculture, environment and sustainable development, says dams are a good breeding environment for the black fly.

“The black fly breeds in fast flowing water, natural or artificial like a dam that produces white water, is oxygenated and favourable for larvae. Producing artificial water, we are creating a breeding ground for insects”, he stated.

“With about 8000 bites per minute from the black fly it is difficult for the survival of the population, besides, the new dams already have 2000 bites per minute”, Nkot laments.

As a measure of prevention, YIF is protecting people around the two dams, Edea and Songloulou, by killing the larvae inside the river, but this is done in a limited area.  Consequently the black fly comes from others areas flying about 200km per day, the expert indicated.

Working to control the on the Sanaga River, Prof.  Graham Matthews, Entomologist, Imperial University London says he has been treating the river between Monatele and Edea, using Temefos spread from an engine powered boat.

“The insecticide Temefos, was first used in West Africa by the WHO to treat rivers in nine countries, using an aircraft, but insecticides are not a long term solution as the vector could develop resistance”, Graham says.

In the long term to completely eradicate the black fly and other vectors, there is need to know the current situation in the whole country, the state of the black fly and other vectors, the people living in the area, the species in the environment and where they are breeding.

Against this background, in collaboration with the Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development, YIF launched a socio-environmental impact assessment of the black fly and other vectors in all the regions of Cameroon on June 21 at the Jean XXIII Centre in Nvolye.

The six-month long assessment with experts from Nigeria, London would help the government draw an eradication plan from the results, says Patrice Nsegbe, Head of Cartography at the MINEPAT and Focal Point to the impact assessment studies.

“Government has been supporting for about ten years supports YIF in the fight against the black fly. We need to make this a programme not project as it has been in the pilot zones to cover the whole country”.

He underscores the need to anticipate and put corrective measures before the projects are completed for the wellbeing of the population.

With the results of the impact assessment Cameroon could replicate what the Americans did in Tennessee in the 1930s to level water flow, though costly, Graham suggests.

 

HIV/AIDS Voluntary Screening Taken To Households

 

By Leocadia Bongben

Cameroonians have been urged to welcome survey teams to their homes and get tested for HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis B, besides biological examinations carried out in household for free.

This is the essence of the voluntary HIV/AIDS headcount; dubbed Cameroon Population-based HIV Impact Assessment-CAMPHIA which would involve 14,000 households randomly selected through-out the national territory.

Public Health Minister, Andre Mama Fouda launched CAMPHIA on March 13 at the Yaoundé Hilton Hotel in the presence of stakeholders.

CAMPHIA is funded by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, PEPFAR, through the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC and implemented by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, ICAP.

Launching the project, Mama Fouda urged all Cameroonians to welcome the survey teams which will  have nurses, laboratory technicians to analyse the blood on the spot, test the viral load-the amount of HIV in the blood and the amount of cells that can fight HIV for those positive and direct them to where they can get treatment.

The survey teams would visit randomly selected households and gather information with their consent. The whole process is voluntary with questions asked, followed by counselling for those positive after tests and results provided the same day.

It is estimated that  process  would last for about seven months would commence in the days ahead with survey staff trained and ready for the field work.

The Minister reassured the public of the confidentiality of the survey and proper handling of blood according to the public health approved standards.

He underscored the importance of many Cameroonians knowing their status given that the members of a family, father mother and children would be tested.

“There is no need to be scared of knowing your status because this would help to live a responsible life. I would be happy to know my wife or child does not have HIV or Hepatitis B. If carrier of the virus, it is important to get treatment and not wait. One can have HIV without actually getting sick”, he advised.

“It is important for everybody to know their status, and for everybody to get treatment so as to reach the 90-90 90 target where 90 percent Cameroonians would know their status, 90 percent get treatment and 90 percent suppression of viral load by 2020 and eventual elimination of HIV/AIDS”.

In 2014 UNAIDS set the 90-90-90 target, an ambitious treatment three part target to be achieved by 2020.

Given that HIV/AIDS indicators are not available, Mama Fouda, maintained that the survey would help the government know if it is on track since the survey conducted in 2011. HIV/AIDS prevalence according the 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, DHS, is pegged at 4.3 percent for adults from 15-49.

The survey would also provide a broader understanding of HIV response at both national and regional level, guide investment, target programmes for with greater risks, and those in need of services most and determine user satisfaction with health systems and policy formulation.

Depression, Serious Health Concern In Cameroon

By Leocadia Bongben

Yaounde-Are you persistently sad, lack interest and capacity to accomplish daily tasks for more than two weeks, you can consider yourself depressed.

If you also have the feeling of guilt, uselessness, trouble with sleep and appetite and losing weight, having difficulties to concentrate, talk about it and seek medical advice, because, you are depressed.

The above sums-up World Health Organisation, WHO’s definition of depression, associated with mental disorder.

The principal causes of depression are the loss of a dear one, poverty, joblessness, physical illness, abusive consumption of alcohol and drugs, besides violence and war.

Within this precinct, Dr. Jean Baptiste Rougou, WHO Cameroon Representative says depression is a reoccupying health problem, particularly in Cameroon, Africa and the world.

He made the statement during the commemoration of the World Health Day on April 7, also the date of the creation of WHO, at the Yaounde Hilton Hotel.

The day, celebrated under the theme; “Depression, Let Talk,” was chaired at by the Minister of Public Heath, Andre Mama Fouda, in the presence of the health family.

According to Rougou, attributed to witchcraft and spiritual practices, cases of depression are on the rise which makes it a public health problem.

He quoted the message WHO Regional Director, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, that, “depression, which is a major cause of incapacity, affects about 332 million people the world over, with about 30 million in Africa”.

“We are all exposed to the risk of depression which touches every person in all ages. Stigmatisation and fear of social isolation prevents those affected from going for treatment…” Moeti said.

She maintained that it is essential to identify depressive episodes from the beginning so as to avoid transformation into a chronic disease.

Depression leads to suicide which, is the second cause of deaths in the world in young people between 15-29 years, varies in age and is more acute between 55-74 years.

Dr. Felicien Ntone Enyime, psychiatrist, one of the few five for the 20 million Cameroonians, depression, which is multifaceted, affecting both the mental and physical would need the more general doctors to provide the needed care.

He equally said, to come out of a situation of depression, there is need for community services besides physical exercise, taking regular walks to sweat out depression.

WHO is helping with the Global Action Programme and intervention guide and the Global Mental Health Action plan 2013-2020 to increase and improve healthcare services for people with mental disorder, by training health workers who are not specialists in mental health to give care.

The world health body therefore urges governments to allocate more human and financial resources to support mental health programmes to respond to the growing burden. Governments also need to include mental health in national agenda in line with the Brazzaville Declaration on non-communicable diseases outlining the steps on how to achieve this.

Celebrating 55 years in Cameroon, WHO counted achievements such as: support to Government and ameliorating the health of the population, rehabilitation of health systems in Garoua, digitalisation of the health card, construction and equipment of a maternity in Bafia, blood banks in 10 health centres, vaccination and polio eradication, support to emergency units, fight against neglected tropical diseases, malaria.

However, the challenges for WHO are numerous; regaining confidence of the population in health systems, closing the gap in the distribution of health personnel and add vigour to routine vaccination, among others.

WHO projects to encourage HIV/AIDS treatment for all, reinforce capacity in the prevention and response to emergencies and disasters, fight malaria, tuberculosis, mental health, maternal and infant mortality, among others.

 

Bamboo Important In Fight Against Climate Change

By Leocadia Bongben 

Experts of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan, INBAR have underscored the importance of bamboo in the fight against climate change especially with the carbon credit scheme and the restoration of the ecosystem.

It was in this light that the Minister of Forestry and Wildlife Ngolle Philippe Ngwese chaired the regional conference on the potential of bamboo and rattan, non-timber forest products known for their unique role in environmental sustainability and fight against poverty  held in Yaounde from August 11-12.

INBAR Director Hans Friedriech told the conference that cutting bamboos can lead to deforestation; reduction of forest cover and on the same token can help in the sustainable use of resources and avoid cutting forest.

“Bamboos are grasses that grow very fast, so when cut, the following year new roots grow up and this goes on year after year making it a very sustainable plant which can be used for many different purposes.Because the bamboo grows so fast it plays an important role in green house carbon emissions, it absorbs more CO2 than trees and within a period of time is a veritable carbon sink”, Friedriech explained.

He added that if the world is getting into a new carbon credit scheme where trading can be done by avoiding emissions then companies can start using bamboo to compensate for their CO2 emissions, a real economic asset.

Denis Sonwa, Regional Centre for International Forestry Research expert maintained that the bamboo is under pressure in central Africa, through deforestation, which means carbon emissions contribute to climate change and on the other hand can be a solution for reafforestation on degraded soil.

“The bamboo grows on degraded soils and can contribute to soil restoration. Using bamboo to make money at the same time is adapting to climate change, being useful for Reduction of Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation,REDD, the bamboo can contribute to the synergy between adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

INBAR is there to help Cameroon discover its potentials, the value chain of bamboo is impotant and has a potentail to be exploited taking the exampleof China with about 8 million people in the bamboo sector for a revenue of 30billion dollars per year.

In 2013 Cameroon signed a Memorandum of undertanding, MOU with INBAR to knit cooperation ties, improve valorisation of bamboo and rattan in Cameroon, Central and West Africa.

Within this context, training has been going on to develop the industry more with about 100 projects initiated.  The result of the training Friedriech says is impresive with the production of handicraft, artifacts and jewelry. However he underlined the need to do more to improve the quality, bring in new designs and add value to make things bigger and better and find regional and international markets.

Cameroon bamboo and rattan can not yet be quantified but an inventory is being carried out in the Centre, South and Littoral and Southwest regions. Though Cameroon has only one main bamboo specie, several others were introduced years ago and in the world there are about 1600 species which can go for different uses.

To ensure sustainable use of the bamboo, there is need to expand and plant new bamboo though the root systems of the bamboo is so strong that when cut they may not disappear.The challenge however, is for actors to understand and capture the potentials.

Attended by experts from Nigeria and Liberia among others the conference ended with experts agreeing to draft a national plan on the promotion of bamboo and rattan in relation to their economic benefits, elaborate a national public policy, professionalize and support development of the sector and create awareness on the value of natural resources in order to better win the war against poverty.

 

 

Ignorance Of Obstetric Fistula Repair Persists Despite Campaigns

By Leocadia Bongben

Despite progress witnessed in the last years with  obstetric fistulas repair some women are yet not aware that their situation can change from shame to shine if they speak out and consult.

Obstetric Fistulas Prof. Tebeu Pierre Marie, Gynecologist and Obstetrician at the University Teaching Hospital, CHU, says is a communication between the bladder and the vagina or between the rectum and the vagina meaning that urine comes to the urine bag and flows directly outside because there is a hole between the urine bag and the vagina and same for  stool.

Prof. Pierre Marie Tebeu

Obstetric fistula occurs at childbirth in a facility where there is no skilled staff or deliveries at home and there might have been need for a caesarian section and when this cannot be done, the head of the baby can compress the bladder or rectum for a long time, in the long run the tissue loses blood supply and dies off.  Within five days to one week the dead tissue falls off creating a hole, Tebeu explains.

Pulcherie Maboulle like Manka Ernestine both operated at the Yaounde University Teaching hospital did not know obstetric fistulas could be repaired.

“It was complicated because we did not know the illness can be cured.  I never knew that I could come to the hospital and get repaired”, Maboulle and Manka all say respectively.

Maboulle has just been operated upon and  has spent only three days in the hospital, as she says, the operation went well. “I can move around, I was even in the other block and I pass urine normally now”, Maboulle says.

For Mankaa who has had three children living with condition of having stool pass through vagina with risk of infection, all is now well after the repair.

Maboulle narrates here ordeal with the disease of shame prior her operation. “It was hell and if your man does not really like you, then be sure to be abandoned. Even within the family, any time you sit with your sisters it is either the odor of urine or feces. It is discouraging, not a life to expose in society”.

It all started in 2014 when she delivered her baby in the hospital and thought after taking antibiotics everything was going to be normal, but after two years she had to come back to the hospital.

“I went to the Gyneco-obstetric hospital but I was told repairs were only done at CHU in the whole of central Africa, I did not even know such an illness exists, so when I got CHU and was consulted I was told the free surgery campaign was over and that I could come back in May”, she said.

Since 2009, CHU has been carrying out free obstetric fistula repairs twice per year to give women a new hope in life and this year the second campaign was on from May 26 –June 6. During the free obstetric repairs the women only have to buy drugs.

As Maboulle says, “Everywhere I went I was asked about FCFA 700,000 but with the free surgery campaign at CHU I have not spent any-money except to buy drugs after the free operation as even hospitalization is free”.

According to Prof. Tebeu, the patient will spend about 300,000 to 500000 to get the fistula repaired outside the free campaign but CHU has reduced the amount by half and humanitarian organizations can help easily now because if they have to spend to operate ten women that same amount can be used to operate 20 women.

Obstetric Fistulas are a public health problem worldwide, with about 2 million women affected and in Cameroon at least 10,000 women live with fistulas and since the campaign started in 2009 more than 200 women have been operated, 20 during each campaign and twice a year but not enough.

There are more women suffering from fistulas and it is estimated that there are 1000 new cases every year, Tebeu stated.

Initially fistulas were thought to affect mostly the northern part of Cameroon due to early marriage, but there are equally women who come from the centre region with fistulas. The Domestic and Health Survey, DHS  2011  indicate that 37 percent of women in the centre region still deliver at home.

Obstetric fistula repair is a technical procedure, the gyaenacologist-Obsterician closes the hole and the woman is able to contain stool or urine and pass it out when she wants.

The percentage of complete repair is estimated at 80 percent and Tebeu says the surgery can be repeated adding that a few women can get their fistula closed but have the flow of urine through the normal channel, a condition known as  post fistulas urinary incontinence which can still be operated.

But, If the hole is so big or fibrosis too much and everything is destroyed with only bones left there is a palliative measure, “remove the pipe that take urine from  the kidney to the bladder and put directly to the intestine and the urine is passed out with stool”, the expert says.

Women who have been repaired of fistula say after this shameful illness there is a life with a God-sent doctor at CHU. This illness comes in childbirth, which is complicated and difficult too. It is not witchcraft but a natural illness like malaria and they encourage women to get treatment in the hospital.

After about five years of free fistula repairs there is change, women came to consult after a long time after about 30 years of bondage with fistulas, but  the time lapse is now about six months and a few years.

But, there is still need for more sensitization; send the information villages to bring more women out for consultation and repairs.

 

 

Cameroon Cardio-Pad Inventor, Wins Africa Prize For Engineering Innovation

By Leocadia Bongben

Marc Arthur Zang, inventor of the Cardio-Pad-a heart diagnosis and monitoring tablet has won the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

Worth about FCFA 21 million the prize designed by the UK based Royal Academy of Engineering was presented to Arthur Zang in the Tanzanian Capital, Dar es Salaam on May 26.

“The Money would be used for the new company I am putting up, Himore Medical in Yaounde, in the payment employees who have just signed their contracts, production of medical appliances being developed internally and to satisfy the needs of the enterprise generally.”, Zang said.

Meanwhile, during the ceremony, Zang commented, “This award has allowed me to measure myself against the best engineers in Africa. I was pushed to the limits, and it has made me a better scientist and a better entrepreneur.  It has also grown my ambitions for the Cardio-Pad and my company, Himore Medical which I now aim to grow into a global leader in medical manufacturing. I am also very proud to win for my country. I hope it will help to restore hope to those who still doubt that Africa has a bright future”,

Zang competed with 11 other entrants among them finalists  from Uganda-Eddie Aijuka who presented an electricity theft prevention machine, Felix Kamaru from Kenya with a website to save the lives of the mother and child, Matt Wainright with an electricity devise for rural electrification from South Africa who each bagged home about FCFA 10million.

The head Judge Malcolm Brinded on the occasion said, “I was very impressed by Arthur Zang and his team, which aims to help patients in communities where access to cardiac specialists is limited.  We are very proud to have him as our second Africa Prize winner”.

Zang is the second winner of the Royal Academy Award, and was lucky to have first winner from Tanzania, Dr Askwar Hilonga present him the prize.

The Royal Academy Award encourages talented sub-Saharan African engineers, from all disciplines, to develop local solutions to challenges in their communities.

The Prize selects a shortlist of innovators from across the continent and provides training and mentoring to help turn engineers with incredible ideas into successful entrepreneurs.

Launched in 2014, the prize aims to stimulate, celebrate and reward engineers who have developed innovations that will benefit Africans.

The  shortlisted Africa Prize entrants, from nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa, were provided six months of business training and mentoring during which they learned to develop business plans and market their innovations, received coaching on communicating effectively, focusing on customers and approaching investors with confidence.

The Cardio-Pad

The Cardio-pad is designed with an assembly of accessories such as cables fixed on the chest, knee and wrist of the patient.

Conductors are connected to the cardio-pad by Bluetooth and the data from the patient, processed and saved during the diagnosis or registration of the patient.

With a click of the button after registration, the information is sent to a cardiologist in town. With his phone or cardio-pad he can send back the diagnosis and prescription from town back to the village, Zang explains.

It suffices to insert the a sim card in the phone for the cardio-pad to be recognized in the system of selected cardiologists, he added

Nearly one in two Africans over the age of 25 has undiagnosed hypertension and an estimated 20 million Africans suffer from a cardiovascular disease. A further 80 million Africans are estimated to have abnormally high blood pressure, which can lead to heart failure.

In Cameroon it is estimated that there are only 50 cardiologists for a population of about 20million, with about 140,000 suffering from Heart diseases.

The Cardio-Pad created in 2011 would therefore contribute to the fight against heart diseases as early diagnosis could bring about treatment and avoid deaths.

Himore Medical

Zang has set up, Himore Medical Limited- an assembly plant in Yaounde to vulgarization the Cardio-Pad already on sale in Cameroon, Gabon and India and Nepal.

The medical equipment plant will employ about 150,000 Cameroonians and Zang intends to use the profit from the sale of 43 Cardio-Pads sold at FCFA 2million each to offset the salaries of employees.

Parts of the device manufactured in China were expected in Cameroon in January and the first 100 would to be assembled would be reserved for Cameroonians.

In its early days of creation, Zang won President Biya’s Prize for innovation in July 2015 that permitted him to build the first Cardio-Pads sent to the regional hospitals.

The  Cardio-Pad  which Zang presented at the Health fair in Geneva won 2014 Rolex Award as the youngest laureate in applied technology and he been listed in the American Business Magazines, Forbes as one of the 30 entrepreneurs to change the future of Africa.