EHS-COVID (422) Child health (14) Fwd [chifa] How has COVID-19 affected the delivery of essential child health services in your health facility or country?

25 June, 2021

Dear HIFA colleagues,

I am forwarding a message (24 June) from our sister forum CHIFA (global child health and rights), with thanks to Martin Yakum, HIFA county representative for Cameroon. Comment from me below.

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Dear all,

I just wanted to share my personal perceptions and observations related to the impact of covid-19 on child health services in Cameroon. I should say that covid-19 seems to have affected access to healthcare in general and not only for child health services.

In the first place, the major problem faced in Cameroon is misinformation making a lot of people to lost trust in the modern medicine and turn more to traditional remedies. When the pandemic started in Child by the end of 2019, this first impression in our population was that China was too far and we should not expect to be affected. However, when we registered our first cases early in 2020, a lot of people took to the social media saying that there is nothing like covid-19 in Cameroon and that the government is using it as a pretext to receive funds from the international community for covid-19 response. Gradually as the pandemic expanded, I guest maybe because it touched a lot of people directly or indirectly through their family members, many other versions of the misinformation came out but what I take not is that some people accepted that there is covid-19 but still saying that the health facilities are "killing" the cases. Talking with several people in my neighborhood, I realized several of them had symptoms that they suspected covid-19 but decided to contact a provider to come and manage them at home rather saying that they do not want to go to the hospital and die. However, I think this is associated with stigma because they simply refuse going to the treatment centers but still requested a doctor or nurse to treatment at home. With the introduction of vaccines, a lot of people are reluctant from taking the vaccines because they think it is not safe. I think is vaccine hesitancy issue is not only about vaccine but about health promotion activities in general because we see the same thing with the wearing of facemask (including even locally made masks).

As people are running away from the hospital, it is of course normal that they do not want to take their children for immunization sessions and other activities in the hospital. However, this generally affected minor situations because I have seen families that are "preaching" hospital is dangerous take their own children to the health facilities though only when it was already critical. As you know, in a critical situation means the patient can die. I was in on of the hospital when my wife was just delivered of a baby and saw a woman whose child died and she was busy shouting "Hospital X has finally killed my child". This is weird but true, she arrived at the hospital already crying because the child was already in a very bad situation and the child died close to 30 minutes later.

There are a lot of situations like this but I cannot say it all.

Thank you all

Martin

CHIFA profile: Yakum Martin Ndinakie is an Epidemiologist at M.A.SANTE in Cameroon. Professional interests: Health research in general and infectious diseases of poverty in particular. Martin is a HIFA country representative for Cameroon.

https://www.hifa.org/support/members/martin

martinyakum AT gmail.com

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Comment (NPW): Martin raises several issues here. Lack of trust in allopathic medicine leading to increased use of traditional medicine; denial of COVID-19; belief in health facilities 'killing' patients; stigma agains COVID-19 patients; vaccine hesitancy; mistrust of mask wearing; failure to have routine child immunisations; avoidance of care-seeking for child illness; arrival of critically ill children because of delays in seeking care. All are related to lack of availability and use of reliable healthcare information and false belief in misinformation.

Join CHIFA (child health and rights): http://www.hifa.org/joinchifa

Neil Pakenham-Walsh, HIFA Coordinator, neil@hifa.org www.hifa.org