Author(s): Demoures B, NkodoNkodo E, MbamMbam L
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Abstract People isolated from their families, such as prisoners, are the most vulnerable to the consequences of the economic crisis in Africa. Some non-governmental organizations are taking action to improve health care conditions in prisons. We describe herein such a project, conducted in the town of Ngaoundéré, Adamaoua Province, Cameroon. The prison houses 400 prisoners, mostly men. Catholic missionaries have been involved in improving conditions since 1988, at the request of a magistrate from the local tribunal. They have introduced a community store, handicrafts and the teaching of reading and writing, carried out by the prisoners themselves. The Catholic Health Service was asked to join the project in October 1992. Its participation was part of the provincial policy of collaboration between private and public organizations for the improvement of health institutions. Meetings between health workers and prisoners first created an opportunity for the prisoners to talk about their concerns and what they wanted. A health committee, consisting of about 10 prisoners took several initiatives related to hygiene. Access to curative care was then improved by increasing the stock of medicines to include 37 drugs, standardizing the therapeutic recommendations (including those of the national program against tuberculosis) and increasing the prisoners' access to health care by making the pharmacy self-sufficient. The pharmacy's prices are low and the wardens and their families are encouraged to use it. Any profit made goes towards a "solidarity fund" managed by the prisoners, which enables them to buy their own drugs (3 to 5 patients are seen each day by the nurse). The link between money entering the system and the supply of drugs was studied. Most of the diseases reported between July 1994 and July 1995 were infectious, including scabies infections and acute respiratory infections (mean of 5 cases per month). Fifteen cases of tuberculosis were diagnosed and treated. AIDS was not a major problem in the prison although its incidence is likely to rise in Ngaoundéré. The budget of the infirmary for this time period was 65\% that of the smallest private health center in Adamaoua. The solidarity fund paid for 212 medical prescriptions. The cooperation between authorities and health workers made the system sustainable. Self-management of health care was also essential to the project's success. Local control of the budget made everyone involved much more aware of the costs, the need for efficiency and avoiding waste.
This article was published in Sante
and referenced in Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research