This blog is part of a series of stories that came from Our Secure Future’s partner World Pulse, who assisted in collecting stories for the Women, Peace and Security Global Polling Project. To view these results, click here. To view this story on World Pulse’s website, click here.
If you ask anyone what security means to them, the answers would probably go along these lines: an absence of war; access to shelter, food, freedom, and what have you. In a way, these are important aspects of determining how secured people feel. It is practically impossible to feel secured when bullets fly left, right, and centre as is the case now in the Anglophone regions of my country, Cameroon. It is next to impossible to feel secure when your rights are trampled upon and just walking along the streets—especially if you are a woman and alone— sends shivers running down your spine as the fear of being raped drums into your mind loudly. It is also impossible when you are deprived of shelter and your very being is threatened by the same person who promised to love and cherish you… when the promised love turns you into a punching bag and you live in fear for your very existence and life. The list of things which cause insecurity, especially to women and the vulnerable, are long. Still, when we talk security, we often hear about the physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing of those involved. A crucial aspect is often neglected or overlooked.
When I was faced with what security actually means to me, I had to look at this point that many often fail to see: healthcare. Maybe considering health comes naturally to me, because I do have a long history with health issues; still, the present situation in my country made me think a lot about this aspect. Not too long ago, I was with a friend at the hospital. She was critical. I thought the doctors would see her case as an emergency and rush to assist her. Unfortunately, the doctors then on call took their glorious time to attend to her. We tried several times to get them to attend to her, but apparently our talks were falling on deaf ears. I left that hospital angry and feeling frustrated. I couldn’t help thinking about the many that die after difficult attempts at reaching hospitals to meet doctors who appear to be too busy to treat them as emergency cases. And I had to ask myself, how safe are we if we rush to hospitals in our most vulnerable moments, seeking help and succor, but yet we are left even more vulnerable when those to whom we rush for help act like they didn’t see us? How many preventable deaths would have been avoided if such incidents didn’t happen? Are we secured when we go to hospitals and meet doctors who are not so quick to attend to us? These thoughts ran through my mind as I went home, and it was sad to hear friends recount similar stories happening to them.
What began as a peaceful protest in October 2016,lawyers and teachers protesting the marginalization of Anglophones, has taken a turn for the worse. There has been a huge loss of lives and property, with many rendered homeless and dying in the bushes; in fact, many more dying from lack of access to quality healthcare than from bullets and machetes. Still, there seems to be no end in sight as every day, stories abound of burnt villages and health centres, some with patients too weak to run being burnt to ashes in the same place they went to seek help and succor. It has been difficult to swallow these images of charred bodies and burnt hospitals and it has even been more difficult to believe hospitals and health personnel would become targets during conflicts. It has even been more painful to erase the image of wailing mothers on the street calling for a ceasefire. And yet, as the crisis rages and more and more casualties happen, the methods put in place to curb the uprising only increase the insecurity and vulnerability of those directly concerned.
For instance, a recent curfew got me thinking about the sickle cell warriors found in these troublesome Anglophone regions. As one who lives with sickle cell, I know our health is always unpredictable. A health crisis can start suddenly, without warning in the middle of the night, and sometimes rushing to the hospital immediately can mean the difference between life and death. But due to this curfew, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach the hospital in such emergencies. I had to wonder; in times of insecurities, we think about the physical, moral, and financial difficulties. What about the psychological and emotional well-being of those directly affected? Sickle cell warriors, people in need of dialysis, pregnant women nearing their time or in need of strict medical attention, the weak and elderly?
I recently had to wonder what exactly I would pack in an emergency bag if I were to run away because of insecurity. Medications? Water? Pullovers? What exactly? There can never be security in the true sense of the word when a fraction of a populace has to worry about access to good healthcare. For security to be attainable, healthcare availability and affordability is a must. That is why I sincerely believe that security will also mean not only the absence of war and other factors listed above, like violence, rape, lack of shelter, etc., making many feel insecure, but also making sure those in need can have access to good healthcare and quality treatment without fear of reprisal and cost. The stigma of shame and the cost of medications have kept many away from receiving help when sick. When this is taken into consideration, only then will people be able to feel even more secure. Women will stop dying during childbirth; those who are critically ill, especially if they cannot afford the treatment will have a chance at good care. That will make them feel secure, and that is what I define as security.