“The Baka are still treated as second-class citizens”

FAIRMED Managing Director René Stäheli and Programme Director Bart Vander Plaetse recently travelled to Cameroon to meet with the local population, local authorities and other parties to plan the new phase of the FAIRMED project in Abong-Mbang. The trip was a reminder that a great deal of work remains to be done, above all with respect to the severe discrimination faced by the indigenous Baka

State actors, local NGOs and also some Baka representatives were present at the workshop

As an ethnic minority living at the margins of Cameroonian society, the life of the Baka people is marked by poverty and disease. Since 2008, FAIRMED has been running a project in the Abong-Mbang district that is aimed at safeguarding their access to health services. But while the health of Baka communities has improved over the past decade, social discrimination continues to be a major problem.

Programme Director Bart Vander Plaetse experienced this first hand: “I was shocked by what I saw. Among some parts of the population, the Baka are still regarded as second-class citizens,” says Vander Plaetse of his experiences from the recent planning workshop.

Baka barely have a voice
Alongside the main governmental actors and local NGOs, a number of representatives of the Baka were also present at the workshop. “When they had something to say, they were frequently interrupted or cut off entirely,” says Vander Plaetse. Among other aspirations, they have been striving to bring about legal recognition for their villages. “However, instead of listening, the other participants immediately took over the discussion without responding to the concerns of the Baka.”

As a consequence, it was difficult to ensure that the needs of the Baka were even heard during the workshop. Nevertheless, FAIRMED was ultimately able to achieve the goals: “We agreed on common solutions and objectives with the involved parties,” says the FAIRMED Programme Director. Now, the focus is on completing an initial draft for the new project phase by the beginning of 2019.