Financial Assistance for Pregnant Women in Cameroon

African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC)

The obstetrical waiting room with mothers during health education.

Sr. Cordelia Uche Anikwem uses the skills she learned in SLDI to write a grant proposal to provide necessary medical support to pregnant women to help reduce maternal and neonatal morbidities and mortality.

Cameroon is stated to be a lower-middle-income country that faces development challenges due to a lack of strong governance1. The country possessed and benefitted from stability for several decades; however in recent years, insurgent attacks from neighboring regions, COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war has caused high inflation, structural weakness, and restricted economic growth. 

Along with political, economic, and social challenges, Cameroon’s healthcare system is burdened by high mortality rates of mothers, neonates (0-28 days old), infants (< 1 year old), and under-five children. The maternal mortality rate (deaths per 100,000 live births) reduced from 886 in 2000 to 529 in 20172; while the neonatal, infant, and under-five mortality (deaths per 1,000 live births) rates reported in 2021 were 26, 47, and 703

Hemorrhage, hypertension, sepsis, malaria, pneumonia, and communicable diseases have been identified as critical determinants of maternal deaths; while preterm, sepsis,  congenital, meningitis, pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria are causes of newborn and under-five deaths in Cameroon. The majority of these deaths are preventable with the provision of accessible high-quality care in pregnancy, during, and after childbirth to the mother as well as the child4 5.

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Sr. Cordelia Uche Anikwem, TSSF, SLDI alum.

Sr. Cordelia Uche Anikwem, TSSF, SLDI alum.

To address these above-mentioned issues and healthcare disparities, the St. Elizabeth’s Catholic General Hospital/Cardiac Center, Shisong, one of the 14 institutions of Tertiary Sisters of St. Francis (TSSF), offers comprehensive healthcare services to about 3,166 patients monthly in Cameroon6. The healthcare vision of the TSSF is to make health services accessible and affordable to all and to increase the quality of care by providing acceptable structures, equipment, and trained personnel7

Sr. Cordelia Uche Anikwem, TSSF, worked as a Finance Officer in primary health care at the hospital. During her time, she daily witnessed the difficulties and sufferings of the mothers, children, and others who came for treatment. While working in the finance department she also learned that the majority of people that come for services are unable to afford the treatment costs. The hospital’s sustainability is highly dependent (80%) on patient bills and donations (14%) making the development of health services impossible when low-income patients cannot pay their bills8. High healthcare costs and inability to pay influences people's decision to seek necessary care which is a problem for all, especially pregnant women and children.

Distributing wash and nutrition kits to the community.

Distributing wash and nutrition kits to the community.

She identified the gap and need for prenatal care. Despite having no medical background, Sr. Cordelia took the initiative and challenge to support this underserved, high-risk group. Her grant proposal to provide necessary medical support to pregnant women to help reduce maternal and neonatal morbidities and mortality (SDGs 3 & 5) was approved and funded by the Hilton Fund for Sisters in 2022. Some of the services provided by the hospital included primary health care services, prenatal care, community health services, laboratory tests for malaria and typhoid, preparation of emergency bags, and health education on varied topics. A total of 295 individuals -230 adults and 65 children were served through the funds; and it provided jobs to 7 Catholic sisters and 5 community members to include midwives, nurses, a secretary, and public relations staff. 

Completing training for community healthcare workers.

Completing training for community healthcare workers.

Sr. Cordelia's education in Higher National Diploma (HND) in Finance and Accounting, and graduation from ASEC’s SLDI program (Finance Track) played an important role in her successful grant writing. She says that the computer skills in accounting software, fundraising, and project writing skills that she gained through the finance workshops have greatly helped her in her mission and her daily assignments. She further explains that the leadership skills learned through SLDI have helped her improve processes, increase mutual understanding, and offer great support to her ministry in regard to management and decision-making. 

Years after the SLDI program, Sr. Cordelia is still mentoring sisters from her congregation, sisters from other congregations, and lay people in basic computer and project writing skills. She believes her utilization of team-building skills, collaboration with sisters, and inter-congregational work has improved her congregation and community overall. 

Sr. Cordelia currently resides in Nigeria and works as an accountant in the finance department of the Queen of the Rosary Secondary School, Nigeria. She serves in a supervisory role and states that her task assignments, data collection skills, and outputs have greatly improved because of ASEC. She wills to continue writing grant applications in the future to respond to the immediate needs of the community around her.  

She renders immense thanks and gratitude to ASEC for empowering her with skills to help her congregation, ministry, and entire community. She says that ASEC should continue its programs because by “training a single sister, you will reach/teach over 1,000 people. Value of Catholic sisters should not be underestimated as they play a huge role in the background”. 









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This article is addressing the following UN Sustainable Development Goal(s):

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls

Sr. Cordelia Uche Anikwem, TSSF
Profiled in article - Cameroon  

Sneh Akruvala, Ph.D., MS, BSN

Sneh Akruvala, Ph.D., MS, BSN
Program Manager, Monitoring and Evaluation  

Nicole Vilogi-DiPietro, MBA

Nicole Vilogi-DiPietro, MBA
Program Manager (Programs)  

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