By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
The Governor of the South West Region Bernard Okalia Bilai has assured Kumba District hospital authorities of government’s intervention to get the hospital back up to speed. The Governor who had a consolatory message to the victims from the Head of State was speaking February 12, as he visited the partially burnt hospital.
According to hospital authorities, unknown men besieged the hospital looking for wounded soldiers, and in frustration for not finding any partially burnt down the hospital. It was confirmed that two persons died during the attack while others suffered degree burns, and others transferred from the burnt wards to nearby wards. According to information, the fire started in the early morning hours of February 11.
The Director of the Kumba District Hospital, Dr. Sandrine Tchakunte said: “cars for the doctors and nurses were burnt, main surgical hospital with a capacity of 23 beds, female surgical ward with a capacity of 24 beds, VIP room 1 & 2 with 4 beds inside and a loss of a nursing quarter with three apartments with people still sleeping. Visible are charred vehicles, equipment and infrastructure wasted in the attack”.
According to eyewitness account “We were in our wards when all of a sudden we heard gunshots. They said we all should sleep on the floor which we did but we discovered that fire was already ensuing in the hospital. These same boys came again to say we should sleep on the grass after we tried to escape. We were save thanks to the intervention of the security forces”.
Okalia’s visit comes after Communication Minister Rene Emmanuel Sadi issued a statement Monday February 11 stating that, separatists fighters burn the down the health facility. The minister’s statement sanctions that, “a band of secessionists rebels” carried out the attack. He said an estimated 20 individuals staged the attack. This reporter cannot however independently verify the statement by the Minister.
In the statement, the minister condemned the attack on the hospital while extending the sympathy of the head of state to the families of patients burnt alive in the inferno and those wounded.
In the meantime, the minister said, measures have been taken to ensure that, patients are transferred to other health facilities within Kumba as instructions have been given in this light. He added that the government remains resolute to ensure the return of peace and the security of persons and property across the North West and South West Regions.
The United States Embassy in Yaounde on its part has issued a statement condemning the arson attack on Kumba District Hospital, in Southwest Region. “We express our deepest condolences to the victims’ families and our admiration for the courageous medical staff. We call on the Cameroonian government to conduct a transparent investigation into this crime, to ensure the courts hold the perpetrators accountable, and to make the Cameroonian people aware of its findings”.
“We urge both sides in the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon to allow unfettered access to humanitarian and healthcare workers, and never to attack hospitals or health centers. We appeal to both sides of the Anglophone conflict to forswear further violence and enter into a broad-based dialogue without pre-conditions”.