“Water is life” is a known fact, but its significance can be understood in the most remote villages of the world.
My internship at Global Medicare Foundation in Cameroon helped me gain deeper insights into the reality of the water, sanitation, and health (WASH) situation and its impact on the community of a village called Eyumodjock, in South West Cameroon. The village is located in the beautiful backdrop of the serene lake Ejagham. Majority of community members have to buy drinking water that is sourced from the neighboring country, Nigeria. Ground water (wells) and rain water are the other sources that are used for cooking, bathing, and other household activities. Inadequate sanitation facilities such as lack of latrines and poor waste management services have an impact on the environment and health of the community. As research indicates, women and children are at the forefront of WASH related health issues. As part of the WASH project, I got to work with other interns of diverse backgrounds and we conducted surveys to understand the current situation and prospective solutions. Interacting with the community members was a great experience since I got to learn about their underlying issues and their willingness to cooperate for better health outcomes. Living in a remote village and being part of a unique community culture was an interesting experience. Fetching water from the well and collecting rain water, were the most fascinating moments that I will always treasure. As part of the project we prepared a report and presented it to the local authorities as well as public health officials.
I also got the opportunity to work with a partner organization for a health campaign in the Bamengui village based in the West. The campaign was organized to bring healthcare to the community in the village. Educating community members on the issues of WASH, especially on the importance of safe drinking water, working with the local doctors, nurses and students, has enriched my experience in the sphere of rural development. The campaign, an initiative of Dr. Sindha Leontine of St. Leonard Health and Research Foundation, focuses on mobilizing and sensitizing communities by providing them medical consultations with subsidized medicines, education, and training in the health care sector. Women leaders are rare and Dr. Sindha sets an extraordinary example of helping people, especially women and children who are deprived of basic health care facilities.
Overall it was a great learning experience. Grass roots organizations play an important role in providing access to health services to the most remote local communities. Access to poor transportation, financial constraints and lack of human aid makes the implementation of health campaigns in these villages challenging. Despite the hurdles, the local initiatives of various healthcare organizations make it possible to bring hope and service to the people who need them the most. Stakeholder participation, engagement, and collaborations play a key role in the successful implementation and completion of projects.
As a future development practitioner, the one lesson that I have learnt is to focus on “lending a helping hand” on the field as well as off the field, irrespective of where I am and what I do. With this note, I encourage all the readers to practice the acts of kindness and generosity by helping people in the simplest of ways they can.
Mridula is a student in the 5th Cohort of the Master’s of Development Practice Program.