Welisane Mokwe Nkeng is a Cameroonian diplomat, journalist, and gender advocate.
The Welisane Foundation
As founder of the Welisane Foundation, she seeks to enable girls and women to reach their utmost capacity and advance in society through education, workshops, networking, advocacy and empowerment initiatives. Her specialisation lies in International Relations and Diplomacy. She is also a Malaria Ambassador and Global Goodwill Ambassador.
Welisane provides tremendous support to Public Health Pathways. Through our partnership on the Maternal Health Project, she has contributed to project planning with her local expertise and introduced us to key experts on the ground.
From displacement to maternal health
In this interview, Welisane discusses her current work in the South West region of Cameroon and highlights the maternal health needs there. She reveals key elements of project planning and further important issues surrounding women that should be prioritised.
“The Welisane Foundation just donated 1000 reusable pads to Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria“
Could you tell us about your work in the South West region?
The Welisane Foundation just donated 1000 reusable pads to Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria and the project is still ongoing. We are raising more funds for phase 2 of it.
Soon we will run the 4th edition of the “Vacances Sans Grossesses” [Vacations without pregnancies] campaign. It runs for three months and aims to sensitize young girls about the dangers of teenage pregnancy and the importance of pursuing an education.
Furthermore, the 4th edition of the “One girl, One dream” –– back-to-school project will be launched in August and September to support displaced and less privileged girls in going back to school by donating didactic materials and tuition fees.
What aspect of maternal health do you think needs more attention in the South-West region?
There are still several stereotypes, misinformation, and cultural and health myths around maternal health.
Educating women with the right information about their health will go a long way to help them make informed choices and break the cycle of misinformation handed down from generation to generation. This can be achieved by targeting and educating women who attend antenatal care and post-natal care sessions.
The shortage of health personnel is a challenge compounded by the ongoing Anglophone crisis, which has led to many health personnel fleeing the area. Also, many of the midwives are not well trained; rather, they are nurses who have gained experience over time. Hence, there is a strong need for training and refresher courses.
What key elements should we consider while planning the maternal health project?
We should consider the cultural context of the Muyuka area and use the knowledge of local leaders and health personnel who look after the community. In addition, the security challenges must be considered so as to not risk the life of anyone who is a part of the project. Furthermore, it is important to define the budget of the project while considering the lack of social amenities and the risk of working in an insecure area.
Besides maternal health, what other issues should be prioritised for women in Cameroon and other areas in a similar situation?
Menstrual hygiene management, mental health, sexual and reproductive health rights (fibroids, infertility, breast and cervical cancer) and non-communicable diseases (obesity, diabetes and hypertension) are all key issues that warrant more attention if a more wholesome approach to health is to be achieved.
Interview by Camila Carbone
Public Health Pathways project lead for our Maternal Health Programme
“In October 2020, Public Health Pathways partnered with the Welisane Foundation to reduce maternal mortality in Cameroon.“
Maternal health continues to be a public health priority
In Cameroon, the maternal mortality ratio is 529 per 100 000 live births (World Bank, 2019), well above the Sustainable Development Goal of 70 per 100 000 live births (SDGs, 2021).
In October 2020, Public Health Pathways partnered with the Welisane Foundation. Our overarching aim is to reduce maternal mortality in the South West region of Cameroon.
The ongoing Anglophone crisis (ACAPs, 2021) has jeopardised maternal health owing to high numbers of internally displaced populations. Our project focuses on the area around Muyuka town in the Fako Division, where over a third of deliveries occur outside of health facilities.
There is a high risk of medical complications from births in the community amidst the lack of staff and resources for antenatal care services. Further barriers include limited financial resources, safety concerns, and displacement to rural settings due to violence.