AN APPRAISAL OF GOVERNMENT OF CAMEROON RESPONSE TO EMERGENCY CRISES: THE CASE OF COVID 19 CRISES IN THE SOUTHWEST REGION
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The COVID-19 crisis has demanded that the Cameroon government take restrictive measures that are abnormal for during stable times. This research aims to examine an appraisal of government of Cameroon response to emergency crises. This research focuses on the case of Covid 19 crises in the southwest region in as a case study. To carry out this study primary data mainly gotten through questionnaires and secondary data from review of related literature was used.
This research provides evidence to examine the effectiveness of government measures against Covid 19 in the south west region, as well as it identified the challenges faced so far and makes possible recommendations to combat these difficulties. This research appreciates the role of the Cameroon government in its response to the Covid 19 but it also gives recommendation to overcome the faced challenges
1.2 Background to the study
The world is still in the midst of a pandemic that has spread wider and faster than any in human history. The social and economic crisis precipitated by COVID-19 is aﬀecting families, communities and nations across the globe. Government institutions remain a key player in responding to this pandemic (The Independent Panel, 2021). During emergencies, Governments assesses the situation, decides on the best course to take, and allocates the financial and technical resources needed to curb the effects of an emergency situation on the population. Depending the type of the emergency, the government sets up an inter-ministerial commission to inform and educate individuals about an emergency situation in a country. Unfortunately, the public rarely have the opportunity to rate the effectiveness of government response strategies in emergency situations such as in COVID-19 outbreak.
In December 2019, the world witnessed the outbreak of a deadly disease known as COVID-19 in the city of Wuhan of China. Lu, Stratton and Tang (2020) reveal that the world was stunned when a series of pneumonia cases of unknown cause emerged in Wuhan. Rigorous and thorough investigations reveal a novel virus was responsible for the pneumonia cases. The virus earned the name COVID-19 on February 11, 2020. The disease was christened by the Director General of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. UNICEF (2020) explains that ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. UNICEF explains that the disease was first called ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV’ before it was altered to COVID-19. COVID-19 symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties.
Bangkok (Thailand) recorded the first confirmed case of COVID-19 out of China on January 13, 2020 (WHO, 2020a) and by March 2, 2020, 67 territories outside China had reported 8565 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 132 deaths, as well as significant community transmission occurring in several countries worldwide, including Iran and Italy (Hsu, Chia, & Lim, 2020). By March 11, 2020 when the number of countries involved affected had risen to 114, with more than 118,000 cases and over 4000 deaths, the World Health Organisation acknowledged it as a pandemic (WHO, 2020b). The number of confirmed cases is increasing worldwide especially with the advent of the Omicron variant that is highly transmissible (The Guardian, 2022). Globally, as of January 28, 2020, there have been 364,191,494 confirmed cases of COVID-19 including 5,631,457 deaths (WHO, 2022).
In Africa, the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported on 14 February 2020. By May 13, cases were reported in all 54 countries. The African Union acted swiftly, endorsing a joint continental strategy in February, and complementing efforts by Member States and Regional Economic Communities by providing a public health platform. The African Union Chairperson, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, appointed four Special Envoys to mobilize international support for Africa’s efforts to address the economic fallout of COVID-19. To counteract the spread of the virus, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), established in 2017 has been working in collaboration with the public-private AfroChampions initiative to equip African health systems with the necessary health infrastructures to treat COVID-19 patients and run COVID-19 test. The initiative also provides socio-economic assistance to the most vulnerable populations in Africa. Equally, most African countries enforced quarantines, lockdowns and border closure to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, the Africa Taskforce on Coronavirus Preparedness and Response (AFTCOR) was established as a continent-wide strategy for COVID-19. AFTCOR ensures screening at points of entry and cross-border activities; infection prevention and control in health care facilities; clinical treatment of people with severe COVID-19; risk communication. (Nkengasong & Mankoula, 2020).
United Nations (2020) reveals that some African countries have largely taken a middle-of-the-road approach to prevention, maintaining some level of economic activity. Ghana, for example, opted for a partial lockdown for a limited period and enforced close monitoring of people’s movements, providing sanitary facilities and free water to the most vulnerable. Botswana has focused on boosting the livelihoods of vulnerable households by buying food from local communities. To prevent COVID-19 spread, the government of South Africa has rolled out mobile testing units to avoid the movement of potentially infected people. These mobile laboratories are deployed nationwide for a large scale screening to trace and monitor the disease propagation. Meanwhile, in Benin, the government took an unprecedented step toward E-learning to limit the movement of students in overcrowded public universities. The ministry of education created a platform of E-learning where students could interact with teachers on video, using internet cost-free, via local network. Equally, African civil society actors and the private sector are forming unprecedented partnerships to fight the disease. In Nigeria, the Coalition Against COVID-19 has brought together local banks to mobilise resources to support social protection and the purchase of COVID-19 kits. The African Inﬂuencers for Development initiative, supported by UNDP, has rallied medical professionals, finance, logistics, production and more to fight against the pandemic.
United Nations (2020b) further notes that the relative effectiveness of the different strategies across the African region will only be known in time. This study seeks to determine the effectiveness of Cameroon’s government response strategies in the fight against the pandemic.
Cameroon recorded its first COVID-19 case on March 06, 2020 when a French national returning from Europe tested positive. Under the leadership of the Prime Minister, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute, several preventive measures were instituted nationally on March 2020 to contain the local COVID-19 outbreak. These included: closure of all schools and training institutions, forbiddance of any gathering of more than fifty persons, closure of entertainment spots by 18:00 daily, strong discouragement of urban and inter-urban travel, consumer flow to be regulated in markets and shopping centres, postponement of sports competitions, and observance of hygiene measures such as regular hand washing with soap, avoiding close contacts with other persons, covering one’s mouth when coughing/sneezing, and other measures as prescribed by the World Health Organization (WHO). These measures included regular hand washing with soap and detergent using clean running water, avoiding close contact such as shaking hands or hugging, and covering the mouth when sneezing, mandatory use of facemask and hand sanitizers in public spaces such as in government offices, churches and market spaces.
Despite the aforementioned measures, the number of COVID-19 cases is still on the rise in Cameroon. WHO (2022) reveals that COVID-19 statistic in Cameroon stands at 111,113 confirmed cases, 1, 867 deaths and 106, 050 recoveries. The government went received local and international support to contain the virus, however, the resources seems to have been mismanagement by COVID-19 frontline authorities. Some ministers and secretary-generals were called for questioning by the judiciary but till date the report of the section has not been released to Cameroonians. This triggered the researcher to evaluate the government’s response to the pandemic.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Cameroonians seems to be disconnected from the evaluation of government’s activities during emergency response. This attitude limits citizen’s involvement in participatory democracy. With the outbreak COVID-19 in Cameroon on March 05, 2020, the government instituted and enforced numerous response strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus. The measures included: closure of all schools and training institutions, forbiddance of any gathering of more than fifty persons and closure of entertainment spots by 6pm daily. However, the public has not been given the opportunity to appraise government’s emergency response strategies in the pandemic. The absence of such opportunity does not only create a divide between those who govern and the governed but triggers mismanagement of funds meant to fight the spread of the virus.
Rights Groups accused COVID-19 frontline authorities in Cameroon of embezzling $40 million cash donated by Cameroonians and illegally selling 4000 bags of rice donated to COVID-19 patients (Kindzeka, 2020). The absence of COVID-19 preventive kits including water scarcity was also cited in the report. A patient at Messassi Government Hospital in Yaounde recounted that “Most of the time you go there and there is no water. You just find a bucket being placed there without any water in it and at times you don’t even meet soap” (Kindzeka, 2020, p.1). This narration heightened the researcher’s curiosity to investigate the public’s appraisal of the government’s emergency response to COVID-19.
The absence of empirical literature on the public’s appraisal to Cameroon’s government response to the virus makes it difficult to decipher if the public appreciates and works in collaboration with the government to mitigate the spread of the virus or if the public detest and neglect government’s measures taken to prevent the spread of the virus. A positive appraisal can motivate government’s machineries to intensify the fight against the virus, meanwhile a negative appraisal can trigger the government to have a rethink on its preventive COVID-19 approaches.
1.3 Research questions
- To what extent are government’s response strategies effective in the fight against COVID-19?
- what were the challenges faced in implementing COVID-19 preventive measures?
- What can done to enhance government’s response strategy in the fight against COVID-19?
1.4.1 General objective
The main objective of this study is to appraise government’s response strategies in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic.
1.4.2 Specific objectives
The specific objectives include:
- To measure the effectiveness of government’s response strategies in COVID-19 fight.
- To identify the challenges faced in responding to covid 19 in the Buea Municipality
- To propose ways to enhance Government’s response strategy against COVID-19.
FURTHER READING: INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS PROJECT TOPICS WITH MATERIALS