Health care and safety in Cameroon

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Health care and safety in [[{{#explode:Health care and safety in Cameroon| |5}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Cameroon| |6}} {{#explode:Health care and safety in Cameroon| |7}}]]
The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer and trainee. Medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative approach to disease.

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk.

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See also:
Pre-Departure Checklist
Staging Timeline
The Health of the Volunteer The Safety of the Volunteer

The Peace Corps’ highest priority is maintaining the good health and safety of every Volunteer. Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive, rather than the curative, approach to disease. The Peace Corps in Cameroon maintains a clinic with two full-time medical officers, who coordinate Volunteers’ primary health care needs. Additional medical services, such as testing and basic treatment, are also available in Cameroon at local hospitals. If you become seriously ill, you will be transported either to an approved medical facility in the region or to the United States.

Health Issues in Cameroon

Major health problems among in the Peace Corps Volunteers in Cameroon are rare and are often a result of a Volunteer’s not taking preventive measures to stay healthy. The most common health problems in Cameroon are minor ones that are also found in the United States. These include colds, diarrhea, constipation, sinus infections, skin infections, headaches, dental problems, minor injuries, sexually transmitted diseases, emotional problems, and alcohol abuse. These problems may be more frequent or compounded by life in Cameroon because certain environmental factors raise the risk or exacerbate the severity of illness and injuries.

The most common major health concerns in Cameroon are malaria, amoebic dysentery, hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, schistosomiasis, and filariasis. Because malaria is endemic in Cameroon, taking antimalarial medication is mandatory.

You will be vaccinated against hepatitis A and B, meningitis A and C, tetanus/diphtheria, typhoid, and rabies. Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables and boiling your drinking water can prevent amebic dysentery. Volunteers posted in provinces where filaria is hyperendemic are required to take filaria prophylaxis medication. You will be tested for schistosomiasis at the end of service.

It is critical to your health that you promptly report to the Peace Corps health unit for scheduled immunizations and that you let your medical officer know immediately of significant illnesses and injuries.

Helping You Stay Healthy

The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary inoculations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in Cameroon, you will receive a medical handbook. You will also receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first-aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed at the end of this section.

During pre-service training, you will have access to basic medical supplies through the medical officer. However, you will be responsible for your own supply of prescription drugs and any other specific medical supplies you require, as the Peace Corps will not order these items during training. Please bring a six-month supply of any prescription drugs you use, since they may not be available in Cameroon and it may take several months for shipments to arrive. If you take an out-of-the-ordinary prescription drug, you should check with the Peace Corps to see if it is included in the Peace Corps formulary or if it is available at all in Cameroon. Do not wait until you get to Cameroon to find out!

You will have a physical exam at mid-service and at the end of your service. If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the medical officers in Cameroon will consult with the Office of Medical Services in Washington, D.C. If it is determined that your condition cannot be treated in Cameroon, you may be sent out of the country (commonly known as a medevac) for further evaluation and care.

Maintaining Your Health

As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. The old adage “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities are not up to the standards of the United States. The most important of your responsibilities in Cameroon is to take the following preventive measures:

Malaria: You will be serving in an area where malaria, a mosquito-borne disease, is prevalent. To suppress malaria, you must take an approved antimalarial drug, usually mefloquine. Mefloquine, which comes in 250mg tablets, is taken on the same day once a week. Doxycycline is an antibiotic that can be used for malaria prophylaxis but is not as effective as mefloquine because not everyone remembers to take it daily. You will begin taking mefloquine before you leave the United States, unless there are contraindications. You must continue taking mefloquine throughout your service and for four weeks after you leave a malarial area. In addition, to eradicate any remaining malaria parasites you may have acquired, you must take another antimalarial drug when you leave Peace Corps service (primaquine, one tablet daily for 14 days).

Keep in mind that no single or combined malaria prophylactic regimen is 100 percent effective. Avoidance of mosquito bites is imperative! By using bed nets, wearing appropriate clothing, and applying insect repellent to exposed skin, you will greatly reduce your risk of exposure to mosquito bites. Malaria can be effectively treated when prompt medical attention is sought, so you must always keep in mind the cardinal rule in malarial countries: Treat all unexplained fevers as malaria. You will also receive Malarone, a drug you can use while you contact the health unit. Malaria can be rapidly fatal in persons who have no natural immunity to the disease. Unfortunately, Volunteers who do not fully comply with Peace Corps recommendations occasionally contract malaria. You will be administratively separated if you refuse to take malaria prophylaxis.

Rabies: Rabies is present in Cameroon and in most other Peace Corps countries. Any possible exposure to a rabid animal must be reported immediately to the health unit. Rabies exposure can occur through animal bites, scratches from animals’ teeth, and contact with animal saliva. Your medical officer will take into consideration many factors to decide the appropriate course of therapy necessary to prevent rabies. Rabies, if contracted, is 100 percent fatal. Peace Corps medical officers will provide all necessary rabies immunizations.

Injectable medications and immunizations. Injectable medications should be avoided unless given at the Peace Corps health unit or at a facility approved by your Peace Corps medical officer. There are risks of contacting HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases if the equipment is not new and disposable.

All immunizations are given at the Peace Corps health unit or at another Peace Corps-designated facility. If you sustain a wound, a local facility might want to give you an immunization against tetanus. You will be fully immunized against tetanus at the start of your service for a period of at least five years, so that is unnecessary and potentially dangerous (some tetanus immunizations can cause serious allergic reactions). If in doubt about your need for a tetanus booster, contact your medical officer.

HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases: HIV is prevalent in Cameroon and increasing. As you know, HIV causes AIDS, an incurable, fatal disease. Other STDs, such as herpes, gonorrhea, and syphilis, are also common. Abstinence is the only certain choice for prevention of HIV and other STDs. You are taking risks if you choose to be sexually active.

It cannot be overstated that unprotected sexual contact is extremely dangerous. The easy flow of alcohol in Cameroon negatively impacts responsible sexual behavior and consequently increases the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. You should not assume that any sexual partner (fellow Volunteer or Cameroonian) has been practicing safe sex in Cameroon; even longer-term relationships in Cameroon require adequate protection and constant vigilance in terms of safe sex. Volunteers are highly encouraged to use condoms throughout Peace Corps service, even after testing and even in a long-term relationship. If you have objections to practicing safe sex, you should not come to Cameroon. You will receive more information from your medical officer about this important issue.

Diarrheal illnesses: Diarrhea affects most Volunteers at some time during their service. Most cases are due to amoebas, giardia, or bacteria. These organisms are spread by consumption of contaminated food and water and are therefore preventable. A simple stool test helps the medical officer determine the cause of a case of diarrhea. You will be offered appropriate treatment following guidelines set by the Office of Medical Services.

Viral hepatitis: Hepatitis A and B are both endemic in Cameroon. Hepatitis A is highly infectious and spreads through the oral-fecal route. Hepatitis B is transmitted by exposure to blood and bodily fluids, primarily through sexual contact. All Volunteers are vaccinated against hepatitis A and B while in Cameroon.

Filariasis: Filariae are tiny worms that develop in humans, months after they are bitten by the filaria-carrying black fly, mosquito, or deer fly. The disease usually causes problems only after many years of chronic inflammation and scarring of involved organs and tissue. Filarial flies exist primarily in the South, Center, and East provinces of Cameroon. But filariasis has also been diagnosed in Volunteers in the Southwest, some parts of the Northwest, and the West provinces. Volunteers in endemic areas take regular prophylaxis medication. Your medical officer will determine whether you need to do so.

Dust: Dust is a problem during the dry season in Cameroon. It can produce chronic nasal congestion or watery nasal discharge. It can also lead to difficulty in breathing (wheezing) and watery, itchy eyes. If you have asthma, even if it is inactive, the dust, pollen, and molds in the atmosphere in Cameroon may exacerbate your symptoms.

Breathing difficulties: Breathing difficulties caused by allergies to dust or pollen may show up as wheezing or a dry, nonproductive cough during the night or after exercise. Volunteers with no history of asthma have developed wheezing in Cameroon. Allergies developed in-country will probably be resolved when you return to the United States. But it is still necessary to find out if there is an infectious cause for the difficulties and to treat any wheezing before the problem becomes severe.

Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis is a highly contagious, chronic bacterial disease that is widespread in Cameroon, and is spread by the sputum particles of individuals with open-lung tuberculosis. Although your chances of contracting tuberculosis in Cameroon are small, you will have screening tests for tuberculosis during midservice and close-of-service exams.

Birth control: Volunteers are expected to adhere to an effective means of birth control to prevent an unplanned pregnancy. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the medical officer.

Your medical officer will present other appropriate preventive’ Volunteers are expected to comply with therapies recommended by the Peace Corps health unit or referral facility.

Women’s Health Information

Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention but also have programmatic ramifications. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer remains in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical and programmatic standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.

If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps medical officer in Cameroon will provide them. If you require a specific feminine hygiene product, please bring a six-month supply with you.

Your Peace Corps Medical Kit

The Peace Corps medical officer provides Volunteers with a medical kit that contains basic items necessary to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the Peace Corps health unit.

Medical Kit Contents

Ace bandages
Adhesive tape
American Red Cross First Aid & Safety Handbook
Antacid tablets (Tums)
Antibiotic ointment (Bacitracin/Neomycin/Polymycin B)
Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner (Hibiclens)
Butterfly closures
Calamine lotion
Cepacol lozenges
Dental floss
Diphenhydramine HCL 25 mg (Benadryl)
Insect repellent stick (Cutter’s)
Iodine tablets (for water purification)
Lip balm (Chapstick)
Oral rehydration salts and Gatorade
Oral thermometer (Fahrenheit)
Pseudoephedrine HCL 30 mg (Sudafed)
Robitussin-DM lozenges (for cough)
Sterile gauze pads
Tetrahydrozaline eyedrops (Visine)
Tinactin (antifungal cream)
Tweezers (are of poor quality)

Before You Leave: A Medical Checklist

If there has been any change in your health—physical, mental, or dental—since you submitted your examination reports to the Peace Corps, you must immediately notify the Office of Medical Services. Failure to disclose new illnesses, injuries, allergies, or pregnancy can endanger your health and may jeopardize your eligibility to serve.

If your dental exam was done more than a year ago, or if your physical exam is more than two years old, contact the Office of Medical Services to find out whether you need to update your records. If your dentist or Peace Corps dental consultant has recommended that you undergo dental treatment or repair, you must complete that work and make sure your dentist sends requested confirmation reports or X-rays to the Office of Medical Services.

If you wish to avoid having duplicate vaccinations, you should contact your physician’s office, obtain a copy of your immunization record, and bring it to your pre-departure orientation. If you have any immunizations prior to Peace Corps service, the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for the cost. The Peace Corps will provide all the immunizations necessary for your overseas assignment, either at your predeparture orientation or shortly after you arrive in Cameroon. You do not need to begin taking malaria medication prior to your pre-departure orientation.

Bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-thecounter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, it will order refills during your service. While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. The Peace Corps will not pay for herbal or nonprescribed medications, such as St. John’s wort, glucosamine, selenium, or antioxidant supplements.

You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician. This is not a requirement, but they might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs with you—a pair and a spare. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace it, using the information your doctor in the United States provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination. The Peace Corps discourages you from using contact lenses during your Peace Corps service to reduce your risk of developing a serious infection or other eye disease. Most Peace Corps countries do not have appropriate water and sanitation to support eye care with the use of contact lenses. The Peace Corps will not supply or replace contact lenses or associated solutions unless an ophthalmologist has recommended their use for a specific medical condition and the Peace Corps’ Office of Medical Services has given approval.

If you are eligible for Medicare, are over 50 years of age, or have a health condition that may restrict your future participation in healthcare plans, you may wish to consult an insurance specialist about unique coverage needs before your departure. The Peace Corps will provide all necessary healthcare from the time you leave for your pre-departure orientation until you complete your service. When you finish, you will be entitled to the post-service healthcare benefits described in the Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook. You may wish to consider keeping an existing health plan in effect during your service if you think age or preexisting conditions might prevent you from reenrolling in your current plan when you return home.

Safety and Security—Our Partnership

Serving as a Volunteer overseas entails certain safety and security risks. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment, a limited understanding of the local language and culture, and the perception of being a wealthy American are some of the factors that can put a Volunteer at risk.

Property thefts and burglaries are not uncommon. Incidents of physical and sexual assault do occur, although almost all Volunteers complete their two years of service without serious personal safety problems. In addition, more than 84 percent of Volunteers surveyed in the 2004 Peace Corps Volunteer Survey say they would join the Peace Corps again.

The Peace Corps approaches safety and security as a partnership with you. This Welcome Book contains sections on: Living Conditions and Volunteer Lifestyle; Peace Corps Training; and Your Health Care and Safety. All of these sections include important safety and security information.

The Peace Corps makes every effort to give Volunteers the tools they need to function in the safest and most secure way possible, because working to maximize the safety and security of Volunteers is our highest priority. Not only do we provide you with training and tools to prepare for the unexpected, but we teach you to identify and manage the risks you may encounter.

Factors that Contribute to Volunteer Risk

There are several factors that can heighten a Volunteer’s risk, many of which are within the Volunteer’s control.

Based on information gathered from incident reports worldwide in 2004, the following factors stand out as risk characteristics for assaults. Assaults consist of personal crimes committed against Volunteers, and do not include property crimes (such as vandalism or theft).

  • Location: Most crimes occurred when Volunteers were in public areas (e.g., street, park, beach, public buildings). Specifically, 43 percent of assaults took place when Volunteers were away from their sites.
  • Time of day: Assaults usually took place on the weekend during the evening between 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m.— with most assaults occurring around 1:00 a.m.
  • Absence of others: Assaults usually occurred when the Volunteer was unaccompanied. In 82 percent of the sexual assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied and in 55 percent of physical assaults the Volunteer was unaccompanied.
  • Relationship to assailant: In most assaults, the Volunteer did not know the assailant.
  • Consumption of alcohol: Forty percent of all assaults involved alcohol consumption by Volunteers and/or assailants.

Summary Strategies to Reduce Risk

Before and during service, your training will address these areas of concern so that you can reduce the risks you face.

For example, here are some strategies Volunteers employ:

Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of theft:

  • Know the environment and choose safe routes/times for travel
  • Avoid high-crime areas per Peace Corps guidance
  • Know the vocabulary to get help in an emergency
  • Carry valuables in different pockets/places
  • Carry a "dummy" wallet as a decoy Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of burglary:
  • Live with a local family or on a family compound
  • Put strong locks on your STEEL doors and keep valuables in a lock box or trunk
  • Leave irreplaceable objects at home in the U.S.
  • Follow Peace Corps guidelines on maintaining home security Strategies to reduce the risk/impact of assault:
  • Make local friends
  • Make sure your appearance is respectful of local customs; don’t draw negative attention to yourself by wearing inappropriate clothing
  • Get to know local officials, police, and neighbors
  • Travel with someone whenever possible
  • Avoid known high crime areas
  • Limit alcohol consumption

Support from Staff

In March 2003, the Peace Corps created the Office of Safety and Security with its mission to “foster improved communication, coordination, oversight, and accountability of all Peace Corps’ safety and security efforts.” The new office is led by an Associate Director for Safety and Security who reports to the Peace Corps Director and includes the following divisions: Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security; Information and Personnel Security; Emergency Preparedness, Plans, Training and Exercise; and Crime Statistics and Analysis.

The major responsibilities of the Volunteer Safety and Overseas Security Division are to coordinate the office’s overseas operations and direct the Peace Corps’ safety and security officers who are located in various regions around the world that have Peace Corps programs. The safety and security officers conduct security assessments; review safety trainings; train trainers and managers; train Volunteer safety wardens, local guards, and staff; develop security incident response procedures; and provide crisis management support.

If a trainee or Volunteer is the victim of a safety incident, Peace Corps staff is prepared to provide support. All Peace Corps posts have procedures in place to respond to incidents of crime committed against Volunteers. The first priority for all posts in the aftermath of an incident is to ensure that the Volunteer is safe and receiving medical treatment as needed.

After assuring the safety of the Volunteer, Peace Corps staff

provides support by reassessing the Volunteer’s work site and housing arrangements and making any adjustments, as needed. In some cases, the nature of the incident may necessitate a site or housing transfer. Peace Corps staff will also assist Volunteers with preserving their rights to pursue legal sanctions against the perpetrators of the crime. It is very important that Volunteers report incidents as they occur, not only to protect their peer Volunteers, but also to preserve the future right to prosecute. Should Volunteers decide later in the process that they want to proceed with the prosecution of their assailant, this option may no longer exist if the evidence of the event has not been preserved at the time of the incident.

The country-specific data chart below shows the incidence rates and the average number of incidents of the major types of safety incidents reported by Peace Corps Volunteers/ trainees in Cameroon as compared to all other Africa region programs as a whole, from 2001–2005. It is presented to you in a somewhat technical manner for statistical accuracy.

To fully appreciate the collected data below, an explanation of the graph is provided as follows:

The incidence rate for each type of crime is the number of crime events relative to the Volunteer/trainee population. It is expressed on the chart as a ratio of crime to Volunteer and trainee years (or V/T years, which is a measure of 12 full months of V/T service) to allow for a statistically valid way to compare crime data across countries. An “incident” is a specific offense, per Peace Corps' classification of offenses, and may involve one or more Volunteer/trainee victims. For example, if two Volunteers are robbed at the same time and place, this is classified as one robbery incident.

The chart is separated into eight crime categories. These include vandalism (malicious defacement or damage of property); theft (taking without force or illegal entry); burglary (forcible entry of a residence); robbery (taking something by force); minor physical assault (attacking without a weapon with minor injuries); minor sexual assault (fondling, groping, etc.); aggravated assault (attacking with a weapon, and/or without a weapon when serious injury results); and rape (sexual intercourse without consent).

When anticipating Peace Corps Volunteer service, you should review all of the safety and security information provided to you, including the strategies to reduce risk. Throughout your training and Volunteer service, you will be expected to successfully complete all training competencies in a variety of areas including safety and security. Once in-country, use the tools and information shared with you to remain as safe and secure as possible.

What if you become a victim of a violent crime?

Few Peace Corps Volunteers are victims of violent crimes. The Peace Corps will give you information and training in how to be safe. But, just as in the U.S., crime happens, and Volunteers can become victims. When this happens, the investigative team of the Office of Inspector General (OIG) is charged with helping pursue prosecution of those who perpetrate a violent crime against a Volunteer. If you become a victim of a violent crime, the decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is entirely yours, and one of the tasks of the OIG is to make sure that you are fully informed of your options and help you through the process and procedures involved in going forward with prosecution should you wish to do so. If you decide to prosecute, we are here to assist you in every way we can.

Crimes that occur overseas, of course, are investigated and prosecuted by local authorities in local courts. Our role is to coordinate the investigation and evidence collection with the regional security officers (RSOs) at the U.S. embassy, local police, and local prosecutors and others to ensure that your rights are protected to the fullest extent possible under the laws of the country. OIG investigative staff has extensive experience in criminal investigation, in working sensitively with victims, and as advocates for victims. We also, may, in certain limited circumstances, arrange for the retention of a local lawyer to assist the local public prosecutor in making the case against the individual who perpetrated the violent crime.

If you do become a victim of a violent crime, first, make sure you are in a safe place and with people you trust and second, contact the country director or the Peace Corps medical officer. Immediate reporting is important to the preservation of evidence and the chances of apprehending the suspect. Country directors and medical officers are required to report all violent crimes to the Inspector General and the RSO. This information is protected from unauthorized further disclosure by the Privacy Act. Reporting the crime also helps prevent your further victimization and protects your fellow Volunteers.

In conjunction with the RSO, the OIG does a preliminary investigation of all violent crimes against Volunteers regardless of whether the crime has been reported to local authorities or of the decision you may ultimately make to prosecute. If you are a victim of a crime, our staff will work with you through final disposition of the case. OIG staff is available 24 hours-aday, 7 days-a-week. We may be contacted through our 24-hour violent crime hotline via telephone at 202.692.2911, or by e-mail at

Security Issues in Cameroon

When it comes to your safety and security in the Peace Corps, you have to be willing to adapt your behavior and lifestyle to minimize the potential for being a target of crime. As with anywhere in the world, crime does exist in Cameroon. You can reduce your risk by avoiding situations that make you feel uncomfortable and by taking precautions. Crime at the village or town level is less frequent than in the large cities; people know each other and generally will not steal from their neighbors. Tourist attractions in large towns, for instance, are favorite work sites for pickpockets. The following are safety concerns in Cameroon you should be aware of:

Vehicle accidents are the single greatest risk to your safety in Cameroon. Volunteers are strongly encouraged to wear seat belts whenever available and to avoid riding in overcrowded public buses or vans. Because of the poor and dangerous conditions of roads in the interior of the country and the speed at which vehicles travel, Peace Corps/Cameroon has established a transportation policy that limits Volunteer travel to Yaoundé and the provincial capitals.

The homes of some Volunteers have been robbed in the past, and Volunteers will need to take the same precautions that they would take in the United States. The Peace Corps advises on proper home safety during training, and requires landlords to install deadbolt locks and other safety features in Volunteer homes.

In recent years, street crime has drastically increased in Cameroon, and a number of Volunteers have been victims. By far the most common incidents are petty thefts and burglary. Many of these incidents have taken place in Yaoundé and provincial capitals. There has also been an increase in violent crime using weapons (also in urban areas). Carjacking, particularly in Yaoundé and Douala, has also been reported. In rural areas, there is usually less crime; however, in some regions of the country there are incidents of road banditry.

Volunteers are required to wear a protective helmet whenever riding on a two-wheeled motorized vehicle or a bicycle. Failure to comply with this regulation will result in immediate administrative separation from the Peace Corps. This means you will be sent home. There is no appeal.

Physical and sexual assault occurs in Peace Corps countries worldwide, just as it does in the United States. You can avoid some of the risk by changing your own behavior. You will receive a thorough briefing on how to minimize this risk in Cameroon. If harassment or assault occurs, the Peace Corps health unit staff is available to assist you. It is important that you report any incident to the health unit and receive appropriate care, including care for your emotional well-being. Medications are available to reduce your risk of pregnancy and infection with HIV after sexual contact, so it is important to contact the health unit immediately. The Peace Corps can also advise you about your options for prosecuting an attacker.

Staying Safe: Don’t Be a Target for Crime

You must be prepared to take on a large degree of responsibility for your own safety. Only you can make yourself less of a target, ensure that your house is secure, and develop relations in your community that will make you an unlikely victim of crime. In coming to Cameroon, do what you would do if you moved to a new city in the United States:

Be cautious, check things out, ask questions, learn about your neighborhood, know where the more risky locations are, use common sense, and be aware. You can reduce your vulnerability to crime by integrating into your community, learning the local language, acting responsibly, and abiding by Peace Corps policies and procedures. Serving safely and effectively in Cameroon will require that you accept some restrictions on your current lifestyle.

Volunteers attract a lot of attention both in large cities and at their sites, but they are likely to receive more negative attention in highly populated centers than at their sites, where “family,” friends, and colleagues look out for them. While whistles and taunts are common on the street, this behavior can be reduced if you dress conservatively, avoid eye contact, and do not respond to unwanted attention. In addition, keep your money out of sight by using an undergarment money pouch, the kind that hangs around your neck and stays hidden under your shirt or inside your coat. Do not keep your money in outside pockets of backpacks, in coat pockets, or in fanny packs. Limit time spent in urban areas and provincial capitals, and if it is necessary to be out after dark, travel in a group, never alone.

Preparing for the Unexpected: Safety Training and Volunteer Support in Cameroon

The Peace Corps’ approach to safety is a five-pronged plan to help you stay safe during your two-year service and includes the following: information sharing, Volunteer training, site selection criteria, a detailed emergency action plan, and protocols for addressing safety and security incidents.

The Peace Corps/Cameroon office will keep Volunteers informed of issues that may impact Volunteer safety through Volunteer sharing. Regular updates will be provided in Volunteer newsletters and in memorandums from the country director. In the event of a critical situation or emergency, Volunteers will be contacted through the emergency communication network.

Volunteer Training will include sessions to prepare you for specific safety and security issues in Cameroon. This training will prepare you to adopt a culturally appropriate lifestyle and to exercise judgment that promotes safety and reduces risk in your home, at work, and while traveling. Safety training is offered throughout your two-year service and is integrated into the language, cross-cultural, health, and other components of training.

Certain site selection criteria are used to determine safe housing for Volunteers before their arrival. The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before the Volunteer’s arrival to ensure a safe and healthy work and living environment. Site selection is based on site history; access to medical facilities, communications, transportation, and markets; and project needs.

You will also learn about Peace Corps/Cameroon’s emergency action plan, which is implemented in the event of medical emergency, civil or political unrest, or a natural disaster. When you arrive at your site, you will complete and submit an emergency locator form with your address, contact information, and a map to your house. If there is a security threat, Volunteers in Cameroon will gather at predetermined locations until the situation is resolved or the Peace Corps decides to evacuate.

Finally, in order for the Peace Corps to be fully responsive to the needs of Volunteers, it is imperative that Volunteers immediately report any security incident to the Peace Corps country director. The Peace Corps has established protocols for addressing safety and security incidents in a timely and appropriate manner, and it collects and evaluates safety and security data to track trends and develop strategies to minimize risks to future Volunteers.