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Friday, 22 December 2006


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Cameroon corruption hinders Aids fight
By Jenny Cuffe
BBC World Service, Cameroon

Patients at Abongmbang say they are being charged for HIV tests
In Cameroon alone, the Global Fund and World Bank have allocated more than $133m (£68m) to stem the tide of HIV/Aids. But with corruption endemic, are the millions being spent on combating the disease being used effectively?

Latest figures show that 5% of Cameroon's population are infected with HIV/Aids, and there are plans to ensure they all have access to anti-retroviral drugs and cheaper treatment.

Both the Global Fund and a local NGO, the Scouts Association, have recently given money or testing kits to a hospital in Abomngbang in the rural east of the country so that it can provide free screening.

But when Serge Tchapdar went along, he was told he would have to pay - and he tells me his friends were also asked to do so.

And four members of staff - including the one in charge of the unit - say the hospital did not give any free tests.

The hospital's director, Dr Jean-Paul Kengue, says the tests were done for free - but the records he shows me as proof do not show this.


The tests are indicative of the problem in Cameroon. Tackling Aids cannot happen until a cure is found for Cameroon's second deadly virus - corruption.

The policies and strategies are to help the poorest, and now we have to work on the effectiveness of our policies

Urbain Olanguena
Cameroon's public health minister

The government says it has put more than $4.5m (£2.3m) into the fight against Aids; resulting in treatment at specialist centres for 25,500 patients, the cost of anti-retrovirals falling to $5 from $13, and pregnant women, children and the very poor getting them free.

Roffine tells a different story.

"I am really suffering, because for the past four years I have been sick from HIV," she says.

"My parents discovered I was HIV-positive and they threw me out. I can't pay rent. I can't afford payment for my treatment.

"I don't have any work. I can't do anything for myself. I do everything to get drugs. At times I beg."

Roffine attends one of Yaounde's HIV clinics where she is entitled to free anti-retrovirals.

But after giving her the first month's supply, the pharmacist told her she would have to pay for any more - because her clinic did not receive enough money to buy the drugs it needed from the national supplier Cename, and the only way to get more was to charge.

It is a familiar story throughout Cameroon - patients complaining they are not getting the free or subsidised drugs they are entitled to.

Urbain Olanguena, the Cameroon's minister of public health, says Roffine's case is an isolated incident due to structural problems.

"It doesn't question the global system that today permits Cameroon to give drugs free of charge to people with no money," he adds.

"But if they need treatment they must get it free of charge... the policies and strategies are to help the poorest, and now we have to work on the effectiveness of our policies and ensure the implementation of these policies."


The $133m coming into Cameroon from the World Bank and the Global Fund has dwarfed the government's annual spending on HIV/Aids.

To distribute the funds, the minister has devised an elaborate system, co-ordinated by the National Aids Control Committee.

'Free' anti-retrovirals often end up being sold at Yaounde market

The committee passes money to Provincial Technical Groups, who then divide it between 48 private and several thousand non-governmental organisations (NGOs). At the bottom are the local committees, groups of volunteers who develop their own plans.

This system is wide open to abuse.

Halidou Demba of international NGO Action Aid says local committee presidents and treasurers sometimes misuse the money to buy food grains, stock them in their houses and sell them when food prices are very high in their local market.

Effectively, there is a hierarchy of individuals and organisations all giving money to the man above and taking from the man below.

The individual sums may be small, but multiply them across the country and you're talking millions of dollars.


The complete absence of written records makes proving corruption extremely difficult, and until recently the subject has been taboo in government circles. But in the New Bell Prison in Douala, three former civil servants are now awaiting trial, accused of embezzling $700,000 that should have been used for the fight against Aids.

Damaris Mounlom, who runs an NGO for women's health and development, blew the whistle on the financial irregularities in the Provincial Technical Group, where the accused worked.

"When we went to the field we found that every local committee have spent the money in the corruption," she says.

"The people responsible came to see them and said, 'Give me 200,000 because I am here, I have spent the petrol. I must teach you how to protect yourself. Give me 200,000.' - and so on."

But when Mrs Mounlom blew the whistle, she found herself blacklisted by the health ministry, and has now been removed from the National Aids Strategy Committee.

And corruption means donors are now asking whether there is sufficient return for their investment.

Francois Mkounga, who oversees the World Bank's HIV project - a loan of $50m (£25m) - says they are trying to improve the situation, but there is only so much they can do.

"If the civil society is not providing good information on what is being done on the field it will be very difficult to address those issues of corruption," he explains.

"There will be always allegations, but no way to address specific issues.

"We need to have a clear view of the mechanism being put in place by people dealing with corruption... we discuss with the government and try to get the government to understand where things are not working well.

"It's a challenge every day."




Mr. Paul Biya, Firstly, I'd like to say that to see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage or of basic principle. I wish you long LIFE to witness retributive justice.

Mr. Ni John Fru Ndi(the matador in Bamenda and conscience of Cameroon), truly I write this one with tears running down my cheek. They say you've wasted 16 years. That's not true. You didn't waste a single year. The first ever election you contested saw you victorious. Is this waste? If I had to select one quality, one personal characteristic that I regard as being most highly correlated with success, whatever the field, I would pick the trait of persistence and determination. The will to endure to the end, to get knocked down seventy times and get up off the floor saying, 'Here comes number seventy-one'! I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a 'transformer' in any situation, any organization. Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf. It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader. You've been just that. However, never let your persistence and passion turn into stubbornness and ignorance. Wisdom, Prayers and committment is what I wish you! is your new year gift.

Mr. Ngwasiri, reconciliation should be accompanied by justice, otherwise it will not last. While we all hope for peace it shouldn't be peace at any cost but peace based on principle, on justice. Let the constitution of the SDF play it's role. And I know you're not unaware of the fact that more than any time in history mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness, the other to total extinction. Let us pray that you, Ngwasiri have the wisdom to choose correctly. To you My SINCERE Merry X-mas and a PROSPEROUS 2007.

Mr. Ben Muna, indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible. You may also be interested to learn that the difference between greatness and mediocrity is often how an individual views a mistake...and my advise...when you make a mistake, don't look back at it long. Take the reason of the thing into your mind, and then look forward. Mistakes are lessons of wisdom. The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power. I wish you strength and knowledge to be able to rethink your strategy for leadership, fame and riches.

To all freedom fighters especially those who fight for the restoration of the statehood of the Southern Cameroons: including Rexon, Vito, Ndiks, SJ, Vally Bessong, Massamoyo, samleyin, Neba Funiba, ADAMA KWIKEH, Amin Nkem Atabs, Benny T, DaDiceman, Kumbaboy, langhai, Big Joe, Ma Mary, SJ etc etc, I've got just one word for you...Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man! However, take control of your destiny. Believe in yourself. Ignore those who try to discourage you. Avoid negative sources, people, places, things and habits. Don't give up and don't give in. And you must look for ways to be an active force in your own lives. You must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance and truly begin to live your dreams. A BIG merry Christmas and a positively eventful 2007, I wish you!

To all the staunch 'postnewsline' SDF supporters including Fon, Watesih, Klemenceau, MukiStonehall, Tayong, Atangha, M. Nje, Feli et al, People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don't know when to quit. Most men succeed because they are determined to. Stay the cause gentlemen and keep speaking your truth quietly for they say "it is that truth that sets us free".

To all the Ngwasirit/Muna supporhters including BenTeribobs, Mukete, Ftroit, Vally of England, Momo, Fritzane Kiki, etc always remember that it is good to fight for your opinions, but do not believe that they contain the whole truth or the only truth. However while fighting but failed, remember that you become a champion by fighting one more round. When things are tough, you fight one more round. Although no one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal...the only thing I can do is wish you a splendid knowledge on decision-making, repentance and confession come 2007. Merry X-mas pals.

...And to all of you, as you reflect hard on designing your new year resolutions bear in mind that three grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.


The SON.

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