Thursday, April 5, 2018

Cameroon’s Need for Basic Laboratory Services: A Call for Action



AIDSfreeAFRICA’s mission is to implement and advance pharmaceutical drug production in Sub-Saharan Africa. Although AIDSfreeAFRICA has been working in Cameroon since 2005, the organization has only recently decided to tackle the problems that arise because of the general lack of basic laboratory services in the African nation.

AIDSfreeAFRICA is often approached and asked to take samples of pharmaceutical drugs to the USA and test them for their composition and/or quality. The import of pharmaceuticals in Cameroon is largely unregulated. Much of the imported drugs are brought into the country from Nigeria by salespeople who buy and sell drugs with little regard for the origin of the drugs. Additionally, the salespeople are not educated on how to transport or store drugs properly. We suspect that the main problem with drug quality in Cameroon is degradation due to heat and humidity rather than the counterfeit drugs. However, without the ability to quality control drugs on a large scale, it is hard to say.

Another problem is created by falling drinking water levels, which causes people to drill more wells. However, once water is found the question is: is this water suitable for consumption? 

The ability to analyze drugs, water, animal feed, and soil samples is just one area that needs attention. When you add to this the need to enhance laboratory education in high schools and universities it becomes apparent why AIDSfreeAFRICA is asking Chemist Without Borders readers to respond to this article and help with our efforts. We are looking for chemistry/biology equipment, especially for quality control work and science laboratory education. Please consult our website to see a list of equipment needed.

We are fortunate that the Cameroonian government is welcoming our efforts. We are currently negotiating a contract to receive one laboratory room in a government research facility in Bamenda/Mankon. We are looking forward to finalizing the discussions, signing the contract, moving in and getting started.

To contact us directly, please visit the AIDSfreeAFRICA website (http://aidsfreeafrica.org/our-story/contact/) and send us a message letting us know how you would like to partner with our organization to help Cameroon!

Friday, December 15, 2017

AIDSfreeAFRICA and the Malaria Free Zone Project

If you live in a community with Malaria and are interested in implementing our program in your community feel free to contact us via our web site www.AIDSfreeAFRICA.org. We would like this program to be used all over the world.


Malaria, a devastating disease that runs rampant in sub-Saharan Africa, is passed on to mosquitoes by an infected human and spread to many more humans by that very same infected mosquito. Of the over 200 million cases of malaria worldwide, 90% of them happen in Africa. In countries like Cameroon, more than 70% of the population is in danger of falling victim to this disease; many of those include children under the age of 5. How do we affect change on a grassroots level? The answer is on many levels.

AIDSfreeAFRICA has been educating Cameroonians on how the disease is spread. First the mosquito is born disease-free. The mosquito then finds a person to bite, sucking up a sample of their blood, which has Plasmodium falciparum (which is the
malaria parasite.) The mosquito is not affected by the parasite, but when this mosquito bites another person, thus begins the disease process of malaria. The parasites multiply in the blood, feeding on its host’s red blood cells. This life cycle of the parasite in the host is particularly deadly in children, since children have less blood than adults.


Inspired by the recent Ebola outbreak, which taught Africans to separate the healthy from the ill person, the initiative AIDSfreeAFRICA is implementing to prevent malaria is to cover windows and doors with mosquito nets, thus preventing mosquitoes from entering the house. This a simple initiative requiring only a few supplies, such as a hammer, saw, nails, and a mosquito net We instruct the villagers to measure the window and use these measurements to cut out a mosquito net to fit a little bigger than the window itself. They then place the net over the entire window and secure it in place by nailing thin strips of plywood over the frame. One might think this would be a simple endeavor; however, we have felt some resistance from the village community. Some community members would rather use their nets to protect their crops from bugs and parasites. This can often be a difficult argument to make since most villagers live off the crops they grow. We encourage them to keep their homes and family safe first, and then use any leftover nets for the fields. Most recently, we have seen a steep uptake of the program. We are looking forward to the day when we will see a
statistically significant drop in Malaria cases.


Monday, September 18, 2017

A Laboratory of One’s Own

AIDSfreeAFRICA is a 501-c-3 non-profit organization working in West Africa, Cameroon since 2005. We focus on supporting pharmaceutical drug production. Over the years we have consulted seven pharmaceutical startups, delivered production equipment and helped with drug access. We support STEM education mainly by donating chemistry glassware and equipment to universities and high schools. Everything we have done in the past twelve years was to support existing institutions in Cameroon.


Now we decided is a good time to change this model. We borrowed the title of Virgina Woolf’s book “A Room of One’s Own” to announce that AIDSfreeAFRICA is building its own laboratory - for quality control of pharmaceutical drugs, water, and other useful chemistry. We are looking for a few courageous people to join us to teach hands-on science in Cameroon.

Qualifications needed:
  • Science background, such as a teacher, professor, or industrial scientist.
  • Ability to plan an experiment, and the ability to gather and bring all the equipment needed for its execution.
  • Ability to raise money for trip expenses.
  • Ability to adapt to the impossible, to embrace the unexpected, to tolerate a high level of uncertainty, inconvenience an personal discomfort (lack of conveniences we take for granted in America).
  • Can devote time from now to May 2018 to prepare for this opportunity.
  • Ability to spend 3-6 weeks between May 15 and July 15, 2018 in Cameroon.


Visit the AIDSfreeAFRICA website, blog, and Facebook page and send us your CV and proposal a for your teaching project to

RRHodel@aol.com and donorservice@AIDSfreeAFRICA.org.

Thank you,
Dr. Rolande Hodel

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Judgement Day

June 19, 2017
Since June 19th was a Monday it was also ghost town in Bamenda. A ghost town means there is no public transportation and no business activities whatsoever. Banks are closed, businesses are boarded up and tidily locked up because the owners fear vandalism and street crime. People who do not heed the call and are trying to send their kids to school or doing some business risk getting their school or store burned to the ground. I was prepared, the day before I bought some bread and chocolate from some local women in the bus stop just to have something to eat during this ghost period.
On this particular morning, I stepped out of the house and there was no public transport. No taxis honking, no fear of okadas (motor bike taxis) running you over. The day was nice and quiet, but the challenge was getting to court in up-station Bamenda. Transportation was about 250 CFA by taxi or 400 CFA by okada for roughly 3 miles up Sonak Street to Finance Junction, and then the long road up towards Santa. On the journey, one practically climbs out of the bottom of a volcanic crater up to the rim in a switch back fashion. However, today my focus was not on the lovely view one has over Bamenda. I got up early to make sure I have enough time to walk the three miles, which for me as an avid hiker was easy to do.
The only businesses that did not close on June 19th were the government institutions and hospitals. With lawyers on strike but the courts open for business, I found a receptive prosecutor in Magistrate #5, Madam Belinda Ngu and Judge Samuel Chenwie. The docket was long but everyone, except me had arrived hours late and many did not show up. In some instances only half of the people needed for each case bothered to show, resulting in the court rescheduling most cases. Although Umaru had not shown up to this particular court date, as promised by my Magistrate we continued with the trial. When it was my turn I asked the Judge to instruct me freely and to forgive my ignorance, as I had no previous experience in a Cameroonian court.
I was asked to step into the witness box and confirmed that the case was "The People vs. Nche Aliu Umaru," although some people on Facebook mocked me saying it my as well be called "Hodel vs. Nche Aliu Umaru." In any case, the Judge asked me to recount the entire saga. Luckily the prosecutor had previously filled me in as to what they were looking for. My testimony took several hours with the judge writing everything into his big book for the court record. . His Excellency, the Prime Minister Philemon Yang was very concerned that by testifying I may incriminate myself, but I was not worried since my conscience was clear.
When I was done they called Idrissu Nopu Sahfua, one of the two gendarme soldiers who accompanied me during my investigation to the witness box to testify. Idrissu stated that Umaru had informed the commander of the brigade of Ntarinkon of the possible locations where the cocaine could have been hidden. Idrissu, his boss Hussini, my lawyer and I all ventured to these locations to find the imaginary cocaine. Idrissu confirmed there was no cocaine, as well stating a few facts like the brigade commander was relieved of his duty as a result of him commanding the gendarme to search my house without a warrant. The commander and the officer who searched the house were sentenced to a week in jail as a result. He also recounted that at each location no bad or expired drugs were found, and that I had never been the subject of an investigation, nor was I ever accused.
We also subpoenaed Rev. Fr. Josph Awoh, acting vice chancellor of the Catholic University of Cameroon in Bamenda (CATUC), however he sent a lawyer to tell us that he did not have enough time to prepare and thus did not show up. I believed we could use the Reverend as a character witness, to speak on my behalf, although our partnership agreement did not work out because of Umaru. 
The prosecutor convinced the judge to schedule the sentencing as soon as possible since I would be traveling soon. He scheduled it for Friday, June 23rd. Then it was over, and I felt like falling in a hole. Idrissu rushed off to whatever else he had to do and I lingered around not sure which way to turn, but I ended up walking home.
June 23, 2017
Friday morning I ate breakfast and took a taxi up-station arriving early but not as early as I did Monday. Once again Umaru eluded the court and failed to show up to his sentencing. The Judge delivered the verdict, giving Nche Aliu Umaru five years jail time, with the contingency of increased jail time if he does not pay the court fees. Unbeknownst to me the courts had granted my request to add the civil case to the criminal case, so in an additional verdict he was also found guilty of fraud and was ordered to pay 20,000,000 CFA to AIDSfreeAFRICA. Again I left the court, but the prosecutor caught up with me and told me that we had to wait for ten days after the judgment to see if the accused would file an appeal. She cautioned me to stay quiet and to come back after that period to pick up the final judgment.
July 4, 2017
Amazingly, Nche Aliu Umaru did not appeal. Umaru had previously delayed the trial by asking the second judge assigned to the case to recuse himself, claiming the judge was biased. The judge agreed to do so, thus the third judge was used to deliver the verdict which stood. On July 4, I went back up-station to get the verdict. Instead I got earful that papers had to be written and corrected, and written again and signed and applications filed. I was also instructed go to taxation and pay 1,000,000 CFA, which is about $2000 USD, for taxes on the money I would collect from the plaintiff. WHAT!!!??? I was sent from one office to the next and told, “Oh no, I would not know this. This office is for the criminal cases only; go to the other office that deals with civil cases.” The first helpful person was the Chief of Registration for civil cases. First he took 5200 CFA to put an intake stamp on the judgment, but he listened to my upset rants and did what he was not supposed to do. He gave me a copy of the verdict and explained to me that I have to pay taxes, which I can collect and add to the money Umaru owes me. He also explained that I should hire a bailiff and let him do all the running around - but of course again I paid big bucks for getting nothing done.
In frustration, I left the state council and figured I should get the Governor involved since he had a stake in it. After all he came to the Alpha Royal Clinic with an entourage to see the cocaine himself, but ended up seeing a rice cooker instead and a stuttering Umaru trying to talk his way out of this mess he had gotten himself into. I thought to myself “Why not, it can not hurt to see the big man.” I walked down the street to the governor’s offices and found his secretary, a kind and alert man, who said the governor was out and I could wait or come the following morning. I opted for the next day, but when I left the building his motorcade came in and I rushed back upstairs. I saw the governor in almost no time. He made no move that would have told me that he even remembers but he listened and said, I should complain to the Procureur général (similar to an American Attorney General) and to keep him informed on the complaint. I did so by walking over to the office of the Procureur général (PG) and writing the complaint by hand. The PG told me that I do not have to pay the money immediately; however I would be penalized if I paid later, but for now I could proceed without paying. The PG asked how I obtained a copy of the verdict since I did not yet pay the taxes on it, which I proceeded to lie and avoid answering him directly, essentially saying I couldn’t remember.
If I thought it was over, it was not. If anything it had just started. I wanted to see what would happen when I tried one "little" thing, like asking for information on Umaru's Eco Bank account and having it frozen. I also wanted to inform the embassies and the airports that he is a fugitive and should be on a no fly list. I made sure Idrissu had the arrest warrant and all pertinent information to find and arrest Umaru. Although I made sure Idrissu had the arrest warrant, I don’t believe it did me any good. I suspect that Idrissu may have used it to blackmail Umaru, since he knew Umaru had money, and Idrissu would never fulfill his legal obligation of arresting Umaru. Idrissu had asked me for money before, which I denied. I was also aware that Idrissu had a reputation of being somewhat of a dirty cop; asking for bribes, public complaints against him and so on. Umaru is still at large.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Analysis of Quality Pharmaceutical Drugs in Cameroon


Call for participation to build a Quality Control Laboratory in Cameroon

AIDSfreeAFRICA is looking for donations of new or gently used but fully functioning laboratory equipment such as an HPLC, a FT-IR, analytical balance, Eppendorf pipettes, Ph-meters, GC-MS, and other laboratory supplies. We are also looking for volunteers who would take on the task of contacting manufacturers of such equipment and entice companies to help with a humanitarian effort that will prevent unnecessary suffering and premature death due to ineffective drugs.

Much has been published about counterfeit drugs in developing countries. In Cameroon, counterfeit drugs seem less of a problem since profit margins for pharmaceuticals is low. Poor quality of drugs is more often caused by improper handling, such as exposure to extreme conditions that exceed the specified requirements listed on the package. These conditions, such as high  temperature and humidity, are associated with the rapid degradation of the active pharmaceutical ingredient, API. Once the drugs have been exposed to this kind of environment, they’re comparable to counterfeit. Whether degraded or counterfeit, these drugs aren’t going to make a difference to improve the well being of patients.




AIDSfreeAFRICA has been working in Cameroon for the past 11 years. Recently, we have proposed to help with the task of analyzing a cross section of the existing drugs that are available in the country’s pharmacies, hospitals, black market, and roadside shacks. It is difficult for the Cameroonian government to keep track and to know the exact conditions of the drugs, so they make assumptions based off of their origin. Just because a drug is from a trusted source doesn’t mean that it will be viable by the time it reaches the patient. In Cameroon, each source of drugs serves a purpose and provides people of different economic backgrounds with the access to treatment. The question to be answered is: are the drugs a patient buys of high quality by the time they purchase them?

If the government can analyze the quality of medicine being distributed throughout the country, then it could make rational decisions on where and how to implement regulations, offer training, and eventually develop a comprehensive quality control plan.
Until this happens, AIDSfreeAFRICA wants to step in and provide a Quality Control Laboratory that could analyze those drugs.

Help us in our effort to assure the quality of drugs in Cameroon by donating or volunteering.
Please contact Dr. Rolande Hodel at RRHodel@aol.com.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Telling the truth: chapter one.

This caught my eye today. I downloaded it from someones FB site.
So I will call this series "telling the truth". Call it good old German sarcasm.

Here is another quote. This one is from a friend living in Bamenda, Cameroon:

Thank you Dr Rolande. I have read with tears the story and feel very bad for what has happened to you. I will  take some time to try to really understand this matter. Lawyers are better placed to follow up such a case. What have your lawyer done? Is he still following the case? I will like to meet his wife through a friend to understand what is going on.

I am very ashamed of what has happened to a Humanitarian like you.

Remember, most Cameroon people are good people. Some of these good people get corrupted when they see "white man". They think nothing of it cheating, lying and stealing, because they justify their actions completely with the excuse that "I have it, and they need it". This thinking absolves them from all guilt. They go to Church or Mosque, and are eager to keep their reputation in tact. They think of themselves as upstanding, truthful individuals.  

Tomorrow I will tell you more. A little every day until I leave for Cameroon. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Malaria free Zone project in Littoral

the program recycles old unused bed nets,
it makes the room mosquito free not only the bed,
it does not require the net to be raised and lowered every day,
it is a screen that is there all the time, one can forget it is there.

Thank you Kenneth and his crew. Kenneth experienced how he had to beg for nails, saw and a hammer. How he had to find a place to sleep and food to eat. Begging for things is what every humanitarian does. COngratulations for a job well done.

Kenneth even looked for statistics.
AIDSfreeAFRICA is proud of him.
Thank you,
Dr. Rolande Hodel