Our visit to the health centre in Bazzama highlighted the importance of outreach services in transporting essential supplies and vaccinations to the surrounding villages and refugee camps. From there we travelled on to Ngamboula, 7km away, to see these outreach services in action and speak to pregnant women who have just received their tetanus vaccines.
The villagers were extremely warm and welcoming and the children joined in with a celebratory song they had prepared for our arrival.
The children were particularly excited to see us and it was wonderful to see them gathering round, smiling and chatting. They were fascinated by our cameras and amazed to see images of themselves for the first time.
It was in Ngamboula that we met Madame Adrienne Ndande who had come to talk to us about the vaccination session she had just attended. There turned out to be a great deal more to her story than we had realised and proof that you never really know what someone is going to disclose until they actually start talking to you.
Madame Adrienne, aged 25, was half way through her fifth pregnancy. She explained to us that she felt proud that she and her baby were both protected from tetanus and her eyes lit up when we asked her what she liked best about being a mother. She said she loved caring for her children, being called Mum and seeing her family grow.
Then Adrienne said that she had lost two of her children, one aged 18 months from malnutrition and the other aged 19 months from asthma. Her last bereavement had been two weeks previously.
The conversation quickly changed from a positive, upbeat discussion about the benefits of vaccinations, to a more sombre one as the reality of infant death in the developing world and the dreadful distress this causes was sitting there in front of us.
Madame Adrienne’s situation, sadly, is not untypical. The infant mortality rate in Cameroon is 74 per 1000 live births*. One child out of seven in Cameroon will not celebrate its fifth birthday. Many of the women we spoke to during our time in Africa reported they had lost babies and young children too.
The Pampers and UNICEF campaign is helping women like these.