The Source of Health and Sickness
The Village of Bawa/Public Health
As is the case with many villages in Cameroon, Bawa is home to numerous tropical diseases including malaria, amebiasis, giardiasis, AIDS; and helminth infections like ascariasis, hookworm infections. Of all these, malaria causes the greatest mortality, and the lack of access to health care and education has undoubtedly led to sickness and death in villagers.
The nearest government run clinic is about 4 km away. Sick people will have to walk there, which is almost impossible when they are suffering from serious illnesses. Even if they arrive, lack of resources at the clinic may limit their treatment options. Most villagers can’t afford treatment anyway. Thus, many people die in Bawa because of the inaccessibility to simple, primary care.
Rivers and streams serve as a common source of water for daily use, from bathing and drinking to cooking and washing clothing, dishes and utensils. Most houses have primitive outdoor latrines, which are shallow holes dug near the compound and susceptible to overflow and leaking, especially during the rainy season. Some people prefer to defecate in bushes while in their farms or while traveling in the village — that’s just easier. Human and farm animal waste can easily enter the waterways. When a river crosses several sets of compounds, these same human activities causing contamination upstream is likely to affect those using it downstream.
Basic hygiene and health education — hand washing, proper latrine use, wearing shoes, keeping soil contamination to a minimum — was absent until BHI intervention programs.