BUEA, Cameroon – Human Right Watch, HRW, has petitioned the Cameroon Government to publish information on the revenues, disbursements, and management of Healthcare Solidarity Fund. The international non-government organisation made the request, Saturday, June 12.
According to HRW Central Africa Director, Lewis Mudge, “Cameroon is the Central African country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, yet the Government appears not to have disbursed funds from a reserve that healthcare facilities have been paying into exactly for emergencies like this one.”
The Director stressed that since 1993, Cameroon law had required public primary care facilities to pay 10 per cent of their monthly revenues to the Health Solidarity Fund. “The fund was established to provide surge support during health emergencies. However, to the best of Human Rights Watch’s knowledge, after unsuccessfully seeking such information from the Government, no information about the rules governing the fund or its activity has been published, making it vulnerable to corruption and misuse”, Mudge said.
The organisation further claimed that they have interviewed medical staffs including doctors, nurses, lawyers and several representatives from local non-governmental organisations across Cameroon between April 6 and May 24, 2020, but the interviewees said they have no information regarding disbursements from the Health Solidarity Fund. Worse still, HRW stated that the Healthcare workers reported shortages in basic hospital equipment, including thermometers, disinfectants, and medicines, as well as ventilators and oxygen, and protective gear for doctors and nurses, such as masks, gloves, and glasses
“Despite these shortages, the Government has not provided any information about the revenues, balance, or disbursements of the Health Solidarity Fund, nor has it clarified any rules governing its use. The apparent lack of disbursement to support the health and economic crisis raises serious concerns that the money has been misused or lost to corruption,” HRW said.
Human Rights Watch disclosed that they wrote to the Health Minister on May 11 to inquire about the rules governing the fund and its activities, but has received no response.
According to HRW, a 2018 World Bank report sounded an alarm regarding the lack of rules or information on the fund, noting “it is not clear what the Solidarity Fund is used for” and “there is still no legislation about its use.” The report also raised concerns that transfers to the fund “are a key source of revenue-side inefficiency,”
Mudge said the Government of Cameroon should urgently clarify whether money from the fund has been lost to corruption or misuse and establish clear rules and transparency requirements to prevent it from happening in the future.