Give people a fish and they eat for a day, teach them to fish and they will never go hungry.

Access to life saving drugs is out of the reach for most village people due to long distance to the next hospital, lack of roads, lack of public transportation and high cost when taking a taxi.

In Cameroon children are required to wear a school uniform and school fees are mandatory, causing every third child to grow up without any education. The waste majority being girls.


In this picture primary school children grade 1-8 are praying for Auntie Rolande to come back and teach them how to make medicine to keep their parents alive.  




As little as US $ 200 a year provides education for an orphan.



 When traveling in developing countries leave the candy and chocolate at home. Lack of dental care makes cavities much more painful. Here I am giving out children’s vitamins donated by friends.Children lack vitamin A in particular and vaccinations such as polio, hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, and meningitis are given far and few between.


US$ as much as you can possibly afford!!!



Adeline (in blue dress) is negotiating with the storeowner the “Iron Lady” (sitting in the front) to buy raw materials to make soap and OMO (laundry detergent). She was hired by COPAAP to teach people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS to make and sell soaps.



US $ 300.00 teaches women in a rural village.



Community Partnerships Against AIDS Programs (COPAAP) is planning on teaching soap making in ten additional villages.

Head of laboratory at Mezam Polyclinic Ms. Annett sitting in front of the Cell-dyne analyzer running CD4 counts.

US$ 15 000 is the price for one machine

  US$ 150 diluent solution per month
US$ 100 cell-dyne solution
US$  50  test vials


Prices for consumables lasting at present rate of testing less than a month.

Although this story is from 2005, it is timeless. It taught me so much about people and life in Cameroon. It was priceless. I am so thankful to Dr. Paul Achu, who received me. He and his brother Robert, an architect living in Douala, took me to all these places, keeping me safe and healthy. It was an education of the highest importance to all the work that followed thereafter up to today.

AIDSfreeAFRICA was founded on the premise that the key to success is to build on the existing infrastructure and to have it be owned by the people whom it is suppose to empower. To build something successful a project has to look and feel “African”. We can not implant our American or European thinking into Cameroon and expect it to work.


People living with HIV/AIDS, people caring for orphans and the sick, need an income to pay for medicine, food, school fees, hospital bills and more.




People in Cameroon do not need donated items. They need your tourist dollars and investment. Donated items are subject to very high import taxes and duties, thus helping the government to fill its coffers. The US not metric system and lower voltage makes things unusable. Disposable items are a disaster in a country that has no waste disposal.

Pamela has a small two bedroom house and some land to grow food. She also raises chickens and sells them for additional income. As a nurse she makes only US $ 40 a month.
  The six children are sleeping in one room in two beds! The little girl prefers sleeping under the living room table on the floor instead.





  US $ 6000 would build a 4 bedroom house for her and the children. She would be able to rent out her apartment for needed income.


OPPORTUNITIES TO EMPOWER:

EXPERIENCES FROM MY FIRST TRIP IN 2005

People in the North West Province are taking initiative saying that they do not want to wait any longer for the government to fulfill its obligations.

Eunice, an AIDS widow herself, created a support group for AIDS widows. They founded a private school for their children and orphans from the neighborhood.







US $ 500 pays an annual salary for a teacher.

 COPAAP director Dr. Paul Achu is handing over a motorbike. Two have been donated by an NGO from Holland valuing 175 000 CFA or US $ 350, the motorbikes will enable AIDS counselors to reach people in the remote villages. There are 10 more villages that are establishing AIDS centers over the next 2 years.





US $ 3500 is needed for 10 more bikes.

My second day in Cameroon I joined a few AIDS volunteers on a bumpy drive to a village called Mbu. After the important meetings and trainings we unpacked bananas, bread and beer or juice. Odd combination, but after 8 hours without a bite we are happy to eat at all. Then I am offered “Achu”, the local food. It is starch with some yellow liquid. In it swim a few pieces of cow skin and stomach. I remembered that they cook with river water and eat only enough to taste it.


Grace, the lady to my left had offered me the Achu.


She told me that with 1000 CFA (US $ 2.00) she could buy yarn, crochet a hat worn by men and sell it.From the proceeds she could buy more yarn, some oil and send the children to school…


My friend Ann Higgins sent me US $ 20.00. We wrote a contract with her to use the money that way, to always replenish the initial money and to teach other women to crochet as well.
Thank you Ann :)

 
Hospitals are asking for more intravenous fluids IV) and antiretrovirals. One hospital mission is currently installing a clean water bottling machine since people are dying taking their medication with contaminated river water. Water born diseases kill many people every day, especially children.

The Cameroon Baptist Convention in Mutengene, Cameroon is producing IV fluids, soaps, eye drops, ointments and lotions for the Baptist mission Hospitals in the North West and South West provinces.


US$ 30 000 will buy a 7 ton truck to deliver the goods to the Mission Hospitals.




The picture right shows Faith and Joseph monitoring sterile production of IV fluid. The picture below shows the compound laboratory with someone working with the triple beam to weigh out ingredients that will be placed in a blender to be mixed.



  US$ 4000 will send someone to implement management programs to bring up production to the level of demand.



  US$10 000 will buy a few machines to introduce some automation and thus increase output.






Robert Achu, architect, and his driver Anicestus Takwe in the cabbage field at Rockfarm Santa. Transportation is expensive and urgently needed to reach mountainous villages. It is also needed to bring the harvest to the town markets to sell.


US $ 20 000 is needed to buy a 4WD vehicle like the truck seen in the background.


We need someone to take on building roads!
The largest impediment to development!

CAMEROON PICTURE STORY



One thing is for sure, at the end we will all go 6 feet under. The question is,

what are you going to do today?

  In the words of German President Horst Koehler, former managing director of the Washington, DC based International Monetary Fund, in his inauguration address in 2004:


“The humanity of our world will be measured against the fate of Africa.”

Pharmacists are saying that essential drugs are not available in sufficient quantities. Interestingly, the wives of medical doctors are often owners of a pharmacy. We also had a female dentist, Florence.

Employees at Blanche Achu’s Pharmacy.





US$ 200 000 buy machines to start production of essential drugs.



Women in Africa perform most of the house work. Catching and carrying water, cleaning, washing clothes, cooking, collecting wood for the fire, feeding life stock, growing and harvesting food.  The UN released a report showing that investing in women results in real progress. Women use any money they make to nourish the family, get health care and send children to school. While men largely spend money on alcohol, tobacco and sex.


These three ladies are responsible for cleaning the Mezam Polyclinic. That includes washing bed sheets by hand!
Alicia to my left is a widow. She gave me this beautiful festive outfit that is hand stitched and fits me perfectly.

US $ 350 will buy one sewing machine for the three, enabling them to sew dresses like mine to supplement their meager income.




People on antiretroviral drugs need proper and plenty of food for the drugs to work. If taken on an empty stomach the toxic side effects will take over and hasten death. The North West Province is fortunate that fertile land is available. COPAAP trains people to grow nutritious foods such as cabbage, carrots, Irish potatoes (as seen in the picture) and yams.





  US $ 250 will buy seeds and train women and men in a village to plant and harvest year after year.



This is Anicestus Takwe, a driver for hire with his own car in my Florida dolphin t-shirt ready to pick you up at the Douala airport. After he waited three days at the airport for my delayed arrival from Nairobi, I trained him well to take care of you.



US$ 1200 to 1700 air plane ticket.
US$ 500-800 for 2-3 weeks of amazing sites and new tastes. More if you like to shop.


See travel page for crucial information. 



Pamela, widow and fulltime nurse takes care of her three children. The other three children in the picture are orphans dropped off by relatives. 


US $ 230 sponsorship a year provides an orphan with one warm meal a day, clothes, medical care including vaccinations.


Pamela, however, had some luck. Her husband died of cancer not AIDS. She was his only wife. In Cameroon it is legal for a man to have six wives and more if the man has money or influence. Pamela’s family did not take her husband’s house away from her. Neither was she forced to marry the husband’s brother. Wife inheritance is widespread. These customs further the spread of AIDS.

Orphans receive a lot of press attention but little real help. Children are not counted below the age of five… Today, many more children die on Malaria than on AIDS, a killer successfully eradicated in the US and Europe.


Want to know if you are HIV positive? There are no AIDS tests, no doctors, and  no drugs at the village HIV/AIDS control center. But patients show up to see the nurse, the only person there. When I arrived the local AIDS group was holding one of its first meetings. COPAAP administrator Felix Aka was training the group on how to conduct a meeting, how to write an agenda and the minutes. The group discussed confidentiality and how to recruit volunteers. The government had promised to train 400 AIDS counselors. That comes down to 4000 citizens per counselor, in a country of 15 million people and 270 different languages   





US $ 20000 will buy 10000 Abbott tests. That’s only 1000 tests of each of the 10 testing centers.

An AIDS test tells if someone is positive. To further diagnose a patients status and to monitor disease progress a CD4 test is ordered initially and every 6 month thereafter. The CD4 test tells a patient’s amount of CD4 cells in the blood. CD4 cells are the white blood cells that the body needs to fight infections. These cells are destroyed as the HIV virus targets them for its own reproduction. A normal CD4 count is between 1200 and 1600. A CD4 count below 200 gets a patient onto antiretroviral drugs. These drugs suppress virus reproduction and cause a modest but crucial increase in CD4 cells.
Officials in the US, Foundations, the UN, WHO and NGO’s are fighting for low cost drugs. However, the cost of testing has largely been ignored. People can not afford the high cost for laboratory tests and thus can not be put on lifesaving drugs.

Stigma on HIV/AIDS and misinformation are widespread. The government run Provincial hospitals are set up in a way that furthers stigma and keeps many away from learning their HIV status. By the time people come to the hospital because they are symptomatic they are also very sick. They are either too sick to be placed on antiretrovirals or they die relatively soon after being put on the drugs. The short time between going to a hospital and being dead furthers the believe that “the drugs kill”.

Mezam Policlinic in Bamenda is the approved treatment center for foreign citizens. A 12 bed clinic it is also an approved HIV testing center. Here patients are not segregated into HIV negative and positive. (I.e. by color coating the patients folder.) Three doctors and many more nurses are working long hours to take care of the long line of patients that line up every morning.

Volunteers are welcome to work here.