RuWCED, in its capacity to empower communities in the thirteen villages of Ngoketunjia Division, Northwest Region Cameroon invited community

leaders and nurses for empowerment on managing and preventing COVID-19. Prompted by the rapid spread of coronavirus in the country and the urgency to bar it from Ngoketunjia, the women based NGO devoted extra attention on women with regards to the virus. The meeting took place at the Ndop District Hospital April 11 2020. The facts, the myths and the safety rules regarding the novel coronavirus disease commonly called COVID-19 was presented to community leaders at the meeting.

RuWCED being an NGO with headquarter in Ngoketunjia was acting in courteous responsibility to empower inhabitants of the division on the notion that charity begins at home. It began with a word of welcome from the Coordinator of RuWCED Ndop, Vera Wirsiy.

Speaking to the press, the Operations Coordinator of RuWCED Cameroon Lovees Ahfembombi, revealed the motive of the meeting “Today we came down for a division wide campaign on corona virus, Gender Based Violence and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights to share how corona virus can affect people especially women in the domain of sexual and reproductive health. Our target population of this division wide campaign is Ngoketunjia and we are targeting local communities in the thirteen different villages that make up Ngoketunjia Division. We came here to educate the community health workers and nurses on what corona virus is and how it can be transmitted; discuss on myth surrounding corona virus and how we can prevent corona virus and also to distribute basic utilities that they can use in their communities to help people fight against the prevalence of this coronavirus” he said.

To meet up its objective of educating women and girls, RuWCED cautioned stakeholders at the meeting on promoting women’s sexual rights. The NGO was conscious of the fact that staying at home as one of ways to fight coronavirus may impale women’s sexual rights by causing them to yield to sexuality against their will. Based on this, a Reproductive Health Expert, Ndah Grace spoke to the men to uphold women’s rights with full regards on family planning. In addition, participants were drilled on how to produce locally made hand sanitizer following the WHO recommended standard.

The presence of health workers deployed by RuWCED at the meeting was redeeming as they gave clarifications on misinformation and disinformation surrounding COVID-19. Until then, unverifiable beliefs about the virus was rife among people in Ngoketunjia; coronavirus is not real, it is manmade, it is a Chinese virus, it cannot infect young people except the old, masks are already infected with the virus. All these were condemned as misconceptions.

Community leaders together with nurses at the meeting were enjoined to know that COVID-19 is a respiratory disease. It affects people of all ages and its symptoms include fever, shortness of breath, dry cough, runny nose, sneezing and in some cases diarrhea and dizziness among others.

The disease can be prevented by regular hand washing with soap and running water, use of hand sanitizers in the absence of water, wearing of recommendable facemasks, avoiding crowds, handshakes, observing social distance and staying at home. Also, they were told that in case of a suspected COVID case, the suspect should stay at home but dial the hotline 1510 for reporting. A practical lesson on the production of hand sanitizers with the use of glycerol and hydrogen peroxide was demonstrated.

To engage the community leaders in sensitization about coronavirus as well as the fight against Gender Based Violence, RuWCED brought materials for the communities. Materials distributed were 5000 condoms, 500 lubricants,1500 soaps, 3000 flyers, 500 posters, 500 face masks, 36 t-shirts, 30 badges, 2 packets of pens, 3 realms of papers, 100 litres of hand sanitizer and motivation for the campaigners. The national number 1510 for covid-19 and RuWCED hotline 673224796 number for advice on GBV and SRHR issues. The community health workers and nurses would use the distributed equipment to restitute the training in all the 13 villages of the Division through home visits and a caravan tour with bikers. They shall do this with respect to social distances and wearing of facemasks. The posters would be put up on a market day at strategic locations for greater awareness.

Stakeholders were thankful for the meeting and they resolved to disseminate knowledge that would help to keep COVID-19 at bay. The Regional Focal Point for Sexual and Reproductive Health for the Northwest and the Divisional delegation of women empowerment and the family underscored that the meeting was timely and in line with government actions while the District Medical Officer for the Ndop health District on his part requested the full application of the training in all the villages by community health workers and nurses who were present. The Chief of Integrated Health Center in Babungo Felicitas Che said “I would make the community to know that they should take preventive measures by the government against the disease very seriously. For us here in the northwest it has not reached but if we don’t prevent or we don’t take certain measures it is going to reach us and is going to be catastrophic”

After the meeting with Community stakeholders, RuWCED hopes for a robust community engaging in the prevention and management of coronavirus alongside respecting women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights.