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Outrage took over many social media platforms, Sunday, 17 February 2019, as rumour broke out that soldiers had set portions of the hospital in Shisong in flames. Shisong is a settlement in the outskirts of Kumbo, the latter which is the second largest town in the conflict stricken North West Region of Cameroon.
The rumours, with the exaggerations, did not lack a foundation. About 11 a.m. that Sunday, defence forces of Cameroon got into the premises of Saint Elizabeth Catholic General Hospital and Cardiac Centre, Shisong. It is alleged that they were in search of wounded separatist fighters who might have been admitted in the hospital.
Five military men, carrying arms, entered the hospital through the gate leading into the Farewell Home. They moved into the Cardiac Centre section of the hospital next to the Farewell Home. The soldiers, reports say, went into the wards in that section, and took out a boy who was taking care of his grandmother, admitted in the hospital.
They proceeded to the inner sections of the hospital, went to the Surgical II Unit, and moved into one of the wards. The soldiers are said to have fired some gunshots inside the hospital premises.
The Tertiary Sisters of Saint Francis who run the hospital were on a day of recollection this Sunday. Some of the Sisters immediately came to the hospital where they met the soldiers. According to the Director of the Hospital, Sr. Mary Aldrine Kinyuy, T.S.S.F, the Sisters requested that the soldiers discontinue any activity and leave the hospital premises. The Sisters then accompanied the soldiers to the hospital gate. The boy who had earlier been taken from the Cardiac Centre was let go.
At press time, it was unclear whether there was any causal link between the activity of the soldiers in the hospital and the death of one patient in the Female Medical Unit within those moments. The likelihood of trauma on patients and health workers is high. The effect of the incident on patients in the Cardiac Centre section could be disastrous and long lasting. The administration of the hospital was “uncomfortable” with the incident, said the Director.
The Shisong hospital is one of the biggest in Cameroon. It runs the only cardiac Centre in West and Central Africa. According to an informant who visited the hospital lately, it appeared that many of the cases in the hospital were almost desperate ones, as separatist fighters have blocked most roads in the area. Mostly desperate cases are taken through the tough trips to the hospital and other health facilities.
There have been growing concerns over the recurrence of gun battles between pro-independence fighters and state forces near health facilities. The actual entrance of soldiers carrying arms and using them inside a hospital has raised more eyebrows.
Violence has continued to heighten in Kumbo and environs in recent months. The crisis escalated in October of 2016, after Cameroon's defence forces clamped down and used live ammunition on protesters. The background of the protests go as far back as the 1960s, as the English speaking minority of Cameroon has time and again raised grievances regarding marginalisation by the majority Francophone-led government. Armed Separatist groups are reported to have multiplied in the area, fighting to establish a state called Ambazonia. Civilians have been the victims of the gun battles between the state forces and Separatist fighters.
Health facilities have been increasingly unsafe in recent weeks. Some health facilities in other areas of the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have also been under attack or threat in the crisis which does not yet look to abate.