Covid-19 in Cameroon: Low level of CSOs response in the face of government slip-ups

Covid-19 in Cameroon: Low level of CSOs response in the face of government slip-ups

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Africa falls next in line after Asia, Europe and America to experience the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic. In Cameroon, the first case was recorded on March 6, 2020 and since then, there have been endless cases of infections, quarantines and deaths. As of 6 June 2020, there were 7908 confirmed cases, 2967 active cases, 4735 recoveries, and 206 deaths. In order to curb the spread of the virus, the government of Cameroon has prescribed some response measures that we find quite “inadequate” to the spread of the Coronavirus.

Overview of theImpact of COVID-19 on the Economy

Although the review of the Covid-19 response measures in Cameroon on 11 May 2020 was helpful in resuming some activities, there are still some problems that persist. These include a decline in activities across the economic sector.

Moreover, in the transport sector, motorists have threatened to go on strike to see their working conditions improve. The government was being called upon to review the rules on the number of passengers to be transported. However, the motorists are not the only ones facing difficulties related to the current situation. As an evidence, several companies have put their employees on temporary leave, while the most fragile companies have either reduced their workforce by laying off some of their staff or closing their offices. Other greatly affected businesses include bars, snack bars, pubs, restaurants etc.

The trend is almost the same in many economic sectors. According to a survey by Groupement Inter-patronal du Cameroun (GICAM) on the impact of Covid-19 on companies in Cameroon:

“48% of companies indicated that the human resources have been directly affected. This proportion masks significant heterogeneities depending on the size of the company. In fact, 65% of large companies are experiencing difficulties at this level, compared with 42% of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The gap between service and industrial companies is also very significant. 51% of service companies believe that human resources are directly being affected, compared with 44% of industrial companies”.

The shortfall is huge, with a declining economy. Cameroon Tribune informs that: “SMEs and companies operating in services are the most severely affected in terms of loss of sales revenues. The most affected sectors are hotels, restaurants, distribution, trade, tourism, transport, crafts and events”. An observation confirmed by the GICAM survey which indicates that:

“44% of companies reported that their purchases/supplies are directly being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Industrial and large companies seem to be more affected than service companies and SMEs. In fact, 62% of large companies say that their purchases/supplies have been affected compared to 38% of SMEs. Similarly, 56% of industrial companies said that their purchases/supplies have being affected, compared to 38% of service companies”.

As time goes by, the number of infected people increases. Although the measures prescribed by the government to reduce the spread of Covid-19 are increasingly being observed, the situation is not improving. This observation, nevertheless, raises several questions, particularly about the effectiveness of the control measures.

Inadequate support from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs)

In order to complement the actions of the government, some Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have decided to support the government’s communication actions. Particularly at the level of dissemination of statistical data to bring both sides to respect the preventive measures. This is the case of Positive Generation, which relays information on confirmed cases, active cases, deaths and recoveries on its Facebook page. Another CSO, Volunteers for the Creation and Promotion of Development Initiatives (VOPID) in Cameroon, works closely with the Ministry of Health, particularly the Ministry’s Regional Delegation for the Southwest and Northwest, with which VOPID holds meetings on actions to be taken in response to Covid-19.

“We have created an exchange platform for actions already carried out and action plans of the different stakeholders”, said Jeannette Benga, Chairperson of VOPID.

Despite this willingness of some CSOs to engage in the response, the low level of engagement of the majority of CSOs must be acknowledged. “We cannot do everything”, explained Van Bisseng, Executive Director of Pep Sans Frontière[1] . “Not everyone works in the same field, so not everyone can be active in certain areas”, supported Jeannette Benga, Regional President of the Association of Civil Society Organisations for the Southwest. For her, it would take courage and a spirit of voluntarism to lead this struggle, which many CSOs do not have. And especially, there is also the fear of contracting the disease.

Furthermore, the reaction of the Cameroonian civil society has been low following the violation of the precautionary health measures by the President of the National Assembly (Pan) Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, which could have endangered the health of the population. Indeed, the PAN had been on board Air France flight AF900 to Cameroon. However, this plane probably contained carriers of the virus, hence the need to have quarantined the President of the Lower House on his arrival in Cameroon. But this was not the case.

“WILPF Cameroon strongly condemns this irresponsible behaviour which is likely to undermine the health security of Cameroonians, as it is recognised that almost all confirmed cases are people from foreign countries, including the one where the Honorable Cavaye Yeguié Djibril Yeguié resided before his return to Cameroon”,has indicated by Sylvie Ndongmo, President of WILPF Cameroon.

Also, some CSOs were concerned about responding to the accusations of the Minister of Territorial Administration (MINAT), Paul Atanga Nji. He had accused some CSOs of being ‘conspirators’. For example, the Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa (REDHAC) threatened to sue MINAT for accusing it and other civil society organisations of destabilising the country and being financed by terrorists.

In general, the actions of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to help populations affected by the pandemic are not very visible. “Many of them do not really have the means to fight against these diseases”, Jeannette Benga points out. However, a synergy of organisations working in the health domain would be appropriate to lead the fight. As has been the case in Senegal where the process of dematerialisation monitoring in the field has been accelerated. And where NGOs make material or financial donations available to the populations. This is an exercise that VOPID is working on in the health facilities that distribute masks, gloves and certain materials. But which unfortunately, is already out of stock.

In view of the official statements and the few public speeches, it is clear that some Civil Society Organisations do not show enough commitment to this fight. The challenges remain unchanged, with little glimmer of improvement.

Low CSO response to the easing of the measures

On May 11, 2020, the government decided to review some of the response measures against the Covid-19 disease. Among these revisions is the opening of bars after 6 p.m. A relief for the owners of these entertainment places, and a great threat to the population. Following this decision by the government, very little information is circulating on the actions and other statements made by CSOs. Almost all local news sites do not report on them. Politicians seem to be the most attentive to this situation. Especially since after the government’s communiqué on easing of the measures, some organisations specialising in the domain of health have not publicly given their point of view on the government’s decision. Moreover, some have endeavoured to provide updates on the situation in Cameroon, while continuing to raise awareness.

Although this decision to inform and educate the population in order to limit the spread of the disease is laudable, the virus continues to claim many victims in Cameroon. But Civil Society Organisations are not really helping to slow down the spread of Covid-19. However, the low level of response by these organisations on the failures and bad decisions of the government are a limit to curbing the disease in Cameroon. On the contrary, these government slip-ups and poor monitoring by CSOs make people more vulnerable to the Coronavirus. Hence, there is the need to work maturely and effectively on response plans so that the measures put in place have a real impact in the fight against the pandemic.


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Fiifi is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Communications and Information Officer at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. He joined the Institute in December 2020.


Nancy is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Programme Officer in the Knowledge Management unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute. She joined the Institute in January 2021.


Agnes is a Ghanaian and currently serves as Head of the Administration unit in the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2021.


Doris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Social sciences (Economics and Sociology) from the University of Cape Coast. She is passionate about impacting young lives hence co-founded Impart Foundation. A non-profit organization which seeks to empower young lives through education, technology and entrepreneurship.


Prince Akowuah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Assistant in the Translation Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Maxwell Apenteng is a Ghanaian and joined WACSI in September 2010. He provides gardening and janitorial services at the Institute.


George Adu-Mintah is a Ghanaian and currently the Protocol Assistant/Driver at the West Africa Civil Society (WACSI). He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Ibrahim Kwaku Gbadago is a Ghanaian. He joined the Institute in 2008 and provides janitorial services and assisting the institute's errands. Before joining the Institute, he worked at the Palestinian embassy in Accra, Ghana.


Ruth Yakana is from Cameroon and currently the Receptionist at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


Bethel is a Ghanaian. He provides technical and IT related support to the Institute. He joined the Institute in October 2006.


Whitnay Segnonna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Management from the University of Benin. With 2 years of experience, she has a strong knowledge of organizational and project management. Combined with her bilingualism, she is very passionate about her work. She joined WACSI as Project Assistant on Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) for the Capacity Development Unit.


Stella Yawa Wowoui holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Translation Studies. She has a perfect grasp of both French and English, as well as an intermediate level in Spanish. She is currently working as a Project Assistant on the Techsoup Project.


Kwame is an experienced IT Consultant/Software Developer. He is skilled in Web Applications Development, Digital Security, Database Management, Digital Marketing and Brand Management. He holds a Bachelor's Degree in Information Technology and is a Microsoft Programme Alumni. He is currently serving as a Marketing and IT Officer on the Techsoup Project.


Grace Akpene Ziggah is a Togolese and currently the Logistics Officer and also assists in administration duties at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in June 2009.


Lilian Dafeamekpor is a Ghanaian and currently the Assistant to the Executive Director at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in 2020.


John P. Frinjuah has expertise and interests in civil society, international development, democracy and governance, conflict, crisis, and security. He has extensive experience working with civil society and international development organizations where he supported and managed research, programmes, and provided technical assistance on a variety of themes around public policy, governance, and development. He is an alumnus of the University of Ghana and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy - Tufts University in the United States, with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from two institutions respectively. John speaks English, French and several Ghanaian and regional West Africa languages.


Gervin has extensive international development experience, including 5 years of policy advocacy and capacity building of grass root organisations. He has implemented over the years a combination of agriculture value chain, livelihood, food security and governance and rights programmes.
Prior to joining WACSI, Gervin worked on two USAID projects focusing on agriculture value chain development and governance in northern Ghana
Gervin holds a master’s degree in development & Governance from the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany as well as a Masters in Global Studies from the Universities of Vienna (Austria), Leipzig (Germany) and California (Santa Barbara), USA. He is passionate social justice and inclusion.


Leandre Banon, Beninese, joined WACSI in September 2014 as Capacity Development Programme Assistant. Since then, he has worked in various units within the Institute to support operational and institutional capacity strengthening programmes for civil society in the region. Currently serving as Capacity Development Programme Officer at WACSI, his main responsibilities involve designing, planning, implementing and monitoring capacity development programmes for civil society constituents and grouping across the West Africa. Leandre is a certified Change the Game Academy Programme Trainer. His background lies in the areas of economics and development planning.


Samuel Appiah is a Ghanaian and currently the Programme Officer in the Finance and Administrative Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in May, 2016.


Jimm Chick Fomunjong, Cameroonian, joined WACSI in May 2018 as the Head of the Knowledge Management and Communication Units of the Institute. He has over ten years’ experience as a journalist and a development communications expert. He has a vast experience in supporting African organisations to strengthen their internal and external communications, building and sustaining relationships with the media and, leveraging on the power of social media to promote their mission. He is also excellent at supporting organisations to set up and operationalise functional communications and knowledge management systems. He has a deep passion and expertise in supporting Africans and African civil society organisations to document their praxis, share and learn from experiences documented from the African civil society sector.


Franck Sombo is a development practitioner with the drive to lead self and others to influence productivity and efficiency. His work involves supporting organisations to develop strategic plans, design monitoring and evaluation systems, develop and use relevant performance measurement tools to track progress, assess organizational growth and institutionalise learning. Franck has eight years of experience working with WACSI where he currently serves as the Head, Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning. His academic qualifications include Masters in Organisations’ and Projects’ Management, and in Business Sciences and a High National Diploma in Finance and Accounting.

Franck is a Fellow of the International Program for Development Evaluation Training (IPDET) and a graduate of the Graduate Training Institute (GTI) - Ghana with specialization in Strategic Management and Corporate Leadership. He has a rich experience in Project Management, Capacity Development, Strategic planning, Data Analytics, Monitoring and Evaluation, Training and Facilitation, Mentoring and Coaching among others.


Omolara is a development practitioner and advocacy strategist with over 15 years of progressive experience in development programming targeted at strengthening civil society in West Africa.

She joined WACSI in November 2009 as a Regional Advocacy Consultant and later became the first Policy Advocacy Officer of the Institute in 2010.

She was promoted to Head of the Policy Influencing and Advocacy (PIA) Unit in 2015. As the Head of the PIA unit, Omolara offers strategic direction to the Institutes’ ambitions to connect and convene groups of organised and organic civil society actors; and influence regional and global discourses on crosscutting policy issues including—civil society regulations, sustainable development goals, civic space and enabling environment, aid effectiveness, gender equality, and civil society accountability.

Previously, Omolara served as a Programmes Associate with the Women in Peace and Security Network-Africa (WIPSEN-Africa), where she worked with her team to design and implement pan-African programmes on—multidimensional peace support operations and gender mainstreaming in security sector reform in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

She also served as a Service Development Marshal at TVQ Consulting Group, a customer service firm focused on designing strategic customer relationship and business growth plans for private and public financial institutions in Nigeria.

Omolara is a social justice advocate, a network weaver, and a convener. She has a postgraduate degree in Peace and Conflict Studies; a degree in International Relations and History, from the University of Ibadan and Obafemi Awolowo University in Nigeria respectively.

She also holds executive certificates in Behavioral Science in Public Policy from Harvard University Executive Education in Cambridge and in Citizen Advocacy from the Coady International Institute, St Francis Xavier University in Canada.


Kwabena Kroduah is a Ghanaian and currently heads the Finance Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). He joined the Institute in January 2008.


Charles currently serves as the Head of the Capacity Development Unit at the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). Charles has over 10 years of experience working in international development and social justice issues in Africa. Charles has expertise in strengthening civil society and public agencies including the design and implementation of governance and leadership programmes, development of knowledge pieces and policy advice. Charles was the founding Board Chair of Innovation for Change (i4C)-Hub Afrique, as well as the founding member of the International Consortium on Closing Civic Space (iCon), an initiative of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC. Charles currently serves as the Member of the Governing Board (Coordination Collective) of Africans Rising. He is a Member of the Development Studies Association, United Kingdom. Charles is a 2017 Stanford University Fellow for Nonprofit Leaders and a certified Change the Game Resource Mobilisation Trainer.


Nana Afadzinu is a Ghanaian and currently serves as the Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI). She joined the Institute in October 2010.