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Reference : V-P-CM-E-00145
Date : 06/2020
Country/Region : CAMEROON
Caption : Yaoundé. Bienvenu, 26, teacher-in-training. He is a resident of the Foyer Colonel-Daniel-de-Rouffignac for visually impaired people.
Photographer : BELOUMOU, Daniel
Confidentiality level : public
Publication restrictions : publication without restrictions
Copyright : ICRC
Description : ICRC website, article, 24.06.2020
Cameroon: Navigating the distance created by COVID-19
How do you practice social distancing when you’re blind or visually impaired? Soubiane, Judith, Emmanuel, Brigitte, Jules and Bienvenu all live together in a home for visually impaired people on the outskirts of Yaoundé, Cameroon. They recently told photographer Daniel Beloumou how COVID-19 had affected their daily lives. They may feel more cut-off from the rest of the world, but their optimism and camaraderie help them carry on.
"The home is open to everyone, be they blind, visually impaired, abandoned, orphaned or troubled," says Edwige Mbazoa, now 86, who for more than 20 years has run the Foyer Colonel-Daniel-de-Rouffignac. Under her care and guidance, the couple dozen children and young people who live there are dreaming of finding their place in the wider world, despite the obstacles they face.
To help the home in these difficult times, the ICRC and the Cameroon Red Cross Society have provided handwashing stations and hygiene items. We also taught the children how to take precautionary measures.
Edwige, who works tirelessly on behalf of the children in her home, is proud to be able to help them find their way in the world: "Some of them have become lawyers, teachers or engineers. A disability cannot be an excuse for excluding someone from society." The potential for the spread of COVID-19 has changed things for us at the home. Edwige told us that the crisis "has siphoned away all the funding. The people and organizations that usually support us aren't giving as much."
The residents of the home might be more isolated from the rest of the world, but the ties between them remain just as close.
I like vacations, but this is too long! I want school to start again. At first I thought that Cameroon would be spared, but the disease is everywhere. The numbers are going up every day. I knew things were bad when the prime minister closed the schools, markets and restaurants.
Now everyone is afraid, and we can barely go out, it's like a prison. I was doing all right before: I had my businesses, I went to school, I talked to friends and strangers, but that's all over.
I know the symptoms of COVID-19 and I take the proper precautions. It's become habit now. But there are many restaurants in Yaoundé where there's no bucket of water or soap to wash your hands. And some clerics don't believe the disease is real and they preach that to their followers. I hope that we find a cure that everyone can use.
I feel a bit isolated because my family and friends can't come here anymore. We can't go out like before either, but there are a lot of us here at the home, so we have each other.
"I think it's hard to fully implement the government's measures because they don't align with the mentality in our society."

On the rare occasions when they do go out, they take all the precautions they can. They’re taking things one step at a time.
Original material : digital
Resolution : 4333x6500
Orientation : portrait
Colour/B&W : colour