Cameroon Health Emergency Operations Centre : Working To Safeguard Human Life

Hands are on deck to curb person-to-person, surface-to-person and air droplets transmission of the virus in Cameroon.

With several confirmed symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the country, the Cameroon Health Emergency Operations Centre, charged with the management of incidences in Cameroon is working at guaranteeing the health safety of the populace. The Centre, under the control of its Director, Dr. Etoundi Mballa Georges Alain, who doubles as the Incident Manger for the virus in Cameroon, brainstorms on strategies to be adopted, evaluates the effectiveness of those taken, secures procurement of equipment and related material (medication inclusive), analysis samples, carries out surveillance of persons and sensitises the population with important information about the pandemic. Diverse categories of persons work at the Centre including, health personal like medical doctors, pharmacists, specialised nurses for psychological reasons, laboratory staff, paramedical practitioners, administrators, engineers, support staff, community health workers and information and communication technology experts. 

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For the apt management of the situation in Cameroon, the Incident Manger is assisted by two deputies and three sub sectors comprising the liaison section, security and health section and the public affairs section. 

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The liaison section works on three main principles which include the development and coordination of partnerships, assuring communication with the national focal point on international health regulation, and providing judicial support to responses. The Centre works with traditional partners like the World Health Organisation, other United Nations agencies, public and private partners like mobile telephone companies for the sending out of significant messages to the population.  The security and health section observes all those working in the promotion of health, ensures the environment is secured health wise, see to the respect of healthy prescriptions and makes provision for physiological stability. Public affairs section manages relations with the media and the general public. 

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Four principal branches render the operationalization of the incident management system at the Centre which are the operations section, logistic section, administration and finance and the planning section. 

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Two briefings are held daily at the Centre presided at the Director with the Secretary of State in charge of Pandemics and Epidemics at the Ministry of Public Health, Alim Hayatou, sometimes present as was the case on April 13, 2020 when Cameroon Tribune visited. The first briefing is held in the morning to set priorities for the day and the second in the evening to have a balance sheet of the situation nationwide. A total of 2 289 calls were received at the call center of the Centre on April 13, 2020 with 14 alert cases identified. Globally, close to 40,000 calls have been received on the toll-free numbers and over 8,000 persons have been sensitised in all ten regions of the country as concerns preventing the spread of the virus. Refugees in the East Region, CT was told, have been well educated on the pandemic with electricity problems in the region rendering work challenging. 

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Contact tracing teams have been reinforced in regions with the objective of filling the capacity building gap on the virus. 

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The identification, construction and equipment of treatment and quarantine areas is done by the Centre. In collaboration with border posts points and regional authorities, as at about 9am on April 13, 2020, about 605 persons arriving the country by air had been quarantined and tested. Of the number, 369 were negative and observed for 14 days with 221 persons positive. 13 persons were still awaiting their results and one person was still to be tested. Isolation period have been increased from 14 to 21 days with those being observed and tested negative still being observed for an additional 14 days while on home isolation. This personnel at the Centre said it is because some persons who were negative or asymptomatic manifest the symptoms after 14 days. 

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As concerns difficulties, the Centre made mention of certain individuals who are stubborn and do not respect health directives, material difficulties especially with those coming from outside the country given the general lockdown which the world is facing. 

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