Healthcare in Fotabong

Cameroon, a central African country, has set its sights on becoming an emerging economy by 2035.  As such, prioritizing healthcare access for the poorest segments of the population is key to making solid progress toward lasting economic growth. Although Cameroon’s proportion of doctors (1.9 per 1,000 inhabitants) is twice the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization, the country’s health statistics are paradoxically behind the curve. Life expectancy for Cameroonians has decreased by about two years since 1990, while it has increased by an average of five years in the rest of sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, Cameroon is among the countries where the mortality rate for children under five years of age (122 deaths per 1,000 live births) has decreased the least. The implications of these statistics, is that the more money a woman has, the more likely she is to have qualified professional assistance during childbirth, whereas in poor and rural communities, women and children will have a much higher risk of dying.


Cameroon has 10 regions and within these, the geographic disparities are striking: 40% of the country’s doctors practice in the center region (which includes Yaoundé, the capital), where only 18% of the population lives. On the other hand, the Far North region, which also holds 18% of the population, employs only 8% of Cameroon’s doctors.

The health system in Cameroon has three levels:

  • Peripheral or operational level – Health District
  • Intermediate level – Health Region
  • Central level – National

The Cameroon government is currently implementing several measures aimed at improving access to healthcare in the country that include results based financing and dialogue structures (health committees).


Lebialem, with a population of 180,000 inhabitants, is an administrative division within the South West Region of Cameroon. It is composed of three administrative sub-divisions—Fontem, Alou, and Wabane.  The administrative divisional headquarters is situated in Menji in the Fontem sub-division. The neighboring divisions to Lebialem are Menoua in the West Region to the East, Manyu Division in the South West Region to the West, the North West Region to the North and the Kupe Manenguba Division in the South West Region to the South. Each sub-division in Lebialem has a government hospital.

The Fotabong sub-divisional hospital is a government-owned hospital in the Alou sub-division and is part of the health care network in Lebialem. A physician who serves as a Medical Officer runs the Fotabong hospital, and reports to the District Medical Officer (DMO) who is based in Menji, the Divisional headquarters. The DMO in turn reports to the Regional Delegate of Health in Buea.

The Fotabong hospital was created in 1982, initially as an integrated health center and later as a sub-divisional hospital. It serves a catchment area of about 21,000 individuals and until five years ago, saw an estimated 80-100 patients daily. The various functional units of the hospital includes a pharmacy, laboratory, surgery room, maternity, male and female wards, and a cold chain storage room. The hospital also serves as the hub for vaccination campaigns for the entire sub-division.

The hospital has two main buildings: the original facility where the hospital currently functions and a newer building constructed to serve as a maternity unit; however, it is incomplete, unequipped, in need of repair and non-functional.

Since 2011, the government of Cameroon has assigned a medical officer to the hospital. However, because the doctor did not reside at Fotabong and rarely visited the facility, the quality of medical care deteriorated significantly leading to a lack of confidence in the hospital within the community and resulting in a loss of access to basic health care to the estimated 21,000 potential users.