Samuel and Anne are working around the clock to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Yaoundé and other communities in Cameroon.
In the darkness and hubbub of a large meeting room, Dr. Dorine Ngono shouts herself hoarse. “The purpose of the investigation here,” she explains, “is to retrace the itinerary of the case in order to draw up an exhaustive list of all those who have been in contact with the case.”
The physician-epidemiologist acts on behalf of the Ministry of Health and is a member of the Public Health Operations Centre. In front of her are about a hundred future tracers in training of which about forty work for Action Against Hunger Cameroon. Their chairs are placed one metre apart and all of them are wearing masks. It is important that this training session be done quickly, because as of the next day, the teams are set to intervene in the neighbourhoods of Yaoundé, and the trainees still have many questions.
“I want to know, during the incubation phase, are there already some symptoms that can be felt,” one of the future tracers asks.
“When we say, for example, that the incubation period for coronavirus is 14 days, you have people who will develop the disease one day later, two days later depending on their organism and the level of exposure,” answers Dr. Ngono.
Time is running out says Anne Forget, Emergency Coordinator at Action Against Hunger Cameroon. The work of tracers will be crucial in the first weeks of the epidemic if the spread of the disease is to be controlled.
“When there’s a confirmed case or a suspect case, we send out teams to ask questions about people’s schedules over the last 15 days,” she explains. “Where they’ve been, where they’ve eaten, where they’ve worked, who they’ve been in contact with. And so, based on this list of contacts, we establish those who are at risk of having been contaminated by the person and then we have to follow them, visit them every day for 14 days, asking them very specific questions about their state of health mainly, take their temperature, know if they have cough, fever, breathing difficulties, etc.”
What follows is already in everyone’s mind.
Samuel Feugaing oversees the emergency program at Action Against Hunger in Yaoundé. “In addition to following up on contacts, Action Against Hunger will also focus on raising public awareness,” he says. “We will also try to set up watch and alert teams at the neighbourhood level, who will also be able to alert intervention teams at their level if there are sick people or suspicious cases in the community.”
This is all the more important because for the time being, the prospect of total containment does not seem to be on the agenda in Cameroon.
The coronavirus pandemic is now spreading across all of the countries we work in—our teams are working nonstop to respond.
In some areas, like in Mogadishu, Somalia—a city of 2.5 million—we are the leading health care provider. The gravity of the situation is overwhelming: even a mild outbreak could push us beyond the brink.
Our frontline health workers are doing everything they can to help families and stop the spread of COVID-19. Will you take a moment to send them a quick note of support?