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Thursday, February 07, 2008
Returning to the US is always like diving in from outer space. It does not seem real.
This years trip to Cameroon was a difficult one. On arrival two children in our school died on Malaria, two easily preventable death. Four year old Benwih (picture) survived because her mother knew how to turn adult malaria pills into pediatric drugs. One funeral after another followed week by week. Nothing worked according to plan. Nothing happened the way it had been anticipated. But the expectations on us as "givers" where sky high. This was in part fueled by our last years capacity of gifts/donations carried by six volunteers. There was no way for me to match this.
Having said that the trip was also utterly successful. We as in AIDSfreeAFRICA strengthened our relationships with Cameroonians and made many more friends. I trained a technician at the Cameroonian Baptist Convention on how to produce a diagnostic reagent that is usually in short supply but urgently needed by AIDS treatment centers and hospitals. We delivered donations in form of vitamins, skin lotions, mosquito nets, tooth brushes, sewing supplies, and crocheting yarn.
On the pharmaceutical side of our work, the trip was in part supported by a grant from Tibotec, a Belgium based Pharmaceutical outfit. With their help I established the a non-profit program selling an antifungal at cost. To accomplish this we were enabled to hire four Cameroonians for the various aspects of the project. They are Eric the sales manager (picture next to me), Tamukum the medical delegate (picture middle), Suh Theresia Bi our secretary and Richard a pharmacist who will be conducting a feasibility study. The jobs are not full time and as of yet limited to a year or less but they create jobs for Cameroonians who educated themselves and would otherwise have to leave the country for employment. Pharmacist Charles Boyo (picture far right) from Bamenda joined us as well. We appreciate his generous gift of his expertise in handling this project.
Now back in the US my job is very clear: We need to raise US$ 50,000.00 to buy and ship a blister packaging machine to Cameroon. This machine is the missing link between now and the start of production - with production meaning packaging drugs bought as bulk tablets from India - Acquiring this machine for Diamond Pharmaceutical is a pivotal step that has more impact than what is visible to the bare eye.
I challenge everyone - no I beg everyone of you to send a check or go on-line to our web site www.AIDSfreeAFRICA.org and use paypal for your most generous contribution. Please ask your friends, colleagues and tell your neighbors. The US Ambassador Janet Garvey put it succinctly when she said: "Cameroonians will be so proud when they learn that their country produces drugs." Yes, so am I am and so should you. Thank you everyone at home in the US, Europe and in Cameroon.