Cameroon is located at the "hinge" of central-west Africa. Located from 2 to 12 degrees north of the Equator, the country is approximately the size of California. Climate extremes range from the Congo Basin rainforest to the Sahara desert, from coastal presence to central jungle, and from marsh swamps to the mountainous highlands of the Northwest Province. The Bantu speaking peoples likely came from this region, which currently contains 270 tribes and languages.
When the region was first discovered by the Portuguese in 1472, the Douala estuary was filled with shrimp (Camaroes in Poruguese) from which the country received its name. British and French had a presence in the region until 1883 when "Kamerun" became a German Colony. Following World War I (1916) the country was divided into British and French Protectorates. On October 1, 1961 the Federal Republic of Cameroon was born as the only officially bilingual country of Africa - French and English.
SHISONG General Hospital is located in the Northwest Province, an anglophone zone. The population of Kumbo, the nearest large town, is approximately 100,000. The mountainous location is nearly 1 mile above sea level, permitting improved health and less malaria than proximal lowland areas. Located far inland, the region has had limited colonial influence and retains strength of tradition. The hospital was founded in 1935 by missionaries from SudTyrrol; it has grown to its current size of 350 beds with nearly 100 outpatient visits per day. The staff generally consists of 2 expatriates and 2 indigenous physicians. Considerable clinical activity is carried out by nurses; the Hospital runs a nursing school of approximately 50 students.
To learn more about health issues in Cameroon you may want to review some of these papers.
You can view photos taken at SHISONG General Hospital and the nearby vicinity by clicking here.
Only one student will be chosen to work in Cameroon during Winter/Spring 2004.
There is no foreign language requirement for this site. The province is officially English; the lingua franca is West African Pijin, which is not a written language. Regional languages heard daily include: English, Pijin, LamNso (tribal), Fulani, French, and neighboring tribal vernaculars. Most of the educated population speaks several languages. An attendant always stands with the doctor/student and expects to translate. Language preparation would be futile, as neither the tonal qualities nor the idioms would be understood even if the words are clear.
At most times two medical students from Cameroon University Medical School are rotating at SHISONG. It is common to have 2-3 expatriate students also on rotation. The School of Nursing and Midwifery educates nurses to a level at which they may run a ward or a remote Health Center indendently.
IHE Student Teaching Responsibilities
Travel to and within Cameroon
* A visa is required for travel to Cameroon. Multiple-entry visa for
stay up to 3 months requires $65.22 (money orders only), application form,
passport photos, proof of return/onward transportation, exact dates of
travel, copy of recent bank statement, a letter of invitation and statement
of trip purpose from SHISONG General Hospital, and self-addressed, stamped
envelope. (For more information, see the United
States State Department and the Embassy of the Republic of Cameroon,
Tel. (202) 265-8790. You may also try the Nader VISA Service, 422 East
Indian Spring Drive, Silver Spring, MD 20901, Tel. (301) 608-3511.)
Lodged by the hospital administration and comfortable. Basic facilities include bed, mattress, sheets, electricity, chairs, cooking utensils, gas cooker and refrigerator. Utilities include flush toilet and shower with water heater.
The population has a seropositivity rate for HIV-2 of approximately 5-10%. Transmission rate would be low with proper cautions. You will be expected to have post-exposure prophylaxis with you.
You will not be provided with protective TB masks at the hospital. It is important that you bring your own NIOSH-certified particulate filter respirator. A list of NIOSH-approved N95 disposable particulate respirators (including supplier/manufacturer and contact numbers) may be found here.
Petty theft and bribery are common. Violent crimes are quite rare, except in large cities. Walking to a specific destination after dark is generally safe until around 10:00 PM. The population is protective of expatriates and walking to the hospital at any hour has been safe. SHISONG is a rural location.
Traffic accidents are the major cause of injury or death for students in overseas programs. Read more about how to protect yourself at the Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT) website. The ASIRT has compiled Road Travel Reports for 150+ countries. You can order copies of these reports at no charge. The U. S. State Department also provides safety suggestions. Finally, you may find this recent article in the New York Times helpful.
You are required to purchase all items outlined in the budget. You must bring with you needlestick prophylaxis and other listed supplies. This is NOT optional.
This budget is approximate. We have done our best to estimate the costs students might incur. If your costs exceed the stipend you are given, these costs will be your responsibility to cover. If you underspend the budget allocated for a particular item, you may apply the excess funds to any other item in the budget except food. The amount allocated for food is not intended to cover all your food expenses.
The Central African Franc is the exchange currency. Approximately CFA500 equals $1. The currency cannot be purchased in advance and is not exchangeable outside the country. Cash is best received by writing a check to the hospital administration in exchange for cash. Banks to do not exist in the region. Credit cards are of no value in the region of destination.
Telephone communication, though available, may be difficult. Computer/e-mail/internet access, is available with some logistical arrangements with varying dependability.
Additional supplies to bring
* Short-wave radio: main contact with the outside world. Expect to leave
it there as a gift.
Dr. Brannen is in the Department of Urology at the University of Washington. He and his wife have worked at SHISONG General Hospital in Cameroon for many years. In establishing a permanent collaborative relationship between SHISONG General Hospital and the University of Washington, they will be collaborating with a number of other organizations. For more information, download this document by Dr. George Brannen.