Key medical figures:
• 2,800 patients on first-line ARV treatment

The centralised system and treatment costs pose barriers to healthcare for many people in Cameroon. Those with neglected diseases such as Buruli ulcer, seen mostly in rural areas, are particularly disadvantaged.

Buruli ulcer is a tropical disease that destroys skin and soft tissue, usually on a person’s arms and legs. This can cause secondary infections, restrict their movement and cause permanent disability and  scarring if left untreated. If the disease is detected early enough, the majority of patients can be cured with antibiotics, although surgery may also be necessary. It is still not known exactly how Buruli  ulcer is transmitted. About half of those in Africa suffering from the disease are children.

People with suspected Buruli ulcer in Cameroon are examined and laboratory tests are performed. When  positively diagnosed, they receive antibiotics, wound dressing, surgery and physiotherapy at the Buruli ulcer ‘pavilion’ run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Akonolinga hospital. HIV testing is  routinely offered to all patients; 12.5 per cent of people entering the programme during the year were found to have HIV, nearly triple the estimated population prevalence. Those who test positive receive comprehensive care for  both diseases. In total, the team treated 188 people with chronic wounds resulting from Buruli ulcer, applied more than 15,800 surgical dressings, admitted 48 new patients and  carried out 78 surgical procedures.

Since November 2011, research has been underway to facilitate diagnosis of Buruli ulcer in those resource-limited countries where it has a high prevalence. The aim is to provide health professionals with an easy-to-follow diagnostic grid for identifying cases. The first phase of the study was completed this year, and in total 370 patients have been enrolled. The HIV  programme in Douala was handed over to the Ministry of Health in April, with tenofovir having been adopted as the first-line treatment.

No. staff end 2013: 79 | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1984

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