Autism in Cameroon: A Witchcraft Curse

September 28, 2016

Autism in Cameroon by Anna Rania Klibi

In Cameroon autism is referred to nothing other than something mysterious and paranormal. Thus, people suffering from this disorder, witness great social distress and discrimination and walk with immense social dismissal marks on their foreheads, the same way AIDS patients do. Trying to create awareness on this malady, the United Nations founded a World Autism Awareness Day.According to the UN, autism is a lasting developmental disability that appears itself during the first three years of life and is the result of a neurological dysfunction compromising the functioning of the brain. It mainly impacts children without regard to race or socio-economic

status and is often characterized by impaired social interactions and verbal or non-verbal communication as well as restricted, repetitive or stereotyped behavior.

Although the Cameroonian government is highly tangled by imparting information and awareness regarding autism as a health problem to the population, their efforts are usually seen as a mischievous ploys to steal public funds. Consequently, many of the Cameroonian inhabitants still believe that the disease is of a superstitious nature and origin.

Indeed, because of the inaccuracy and the disrepute of autism as a disease, according to the UN, the high percentage of cases of autism in children around the world has a horrifying effect on their lives and their families. In Cameroon, people with this developmental disorder are often discriminated against and see their human dignity violated; serious enough to flay the sensitivity of human rights and commit moral crime. In fact, whether considering this condition in terms of superstition, there is enough to see these people as abnormal ones, not people like everyone else, but victims of paranormal influences.

Thus, the parents and families of these

Autism in Cameroon by Anna Rania Klibi

patients are covered with lasting disgrace and stress.This exposes them not only to insults and mockery, but also to extortion by traditional menders and pastors who grab these opportunities to point accusing fingers at innocent family members. It is therefore not surprising to find that in every family in Cameroon with an autistic child, an uncle, aunt, grandfather or even father is looked upon as being responsible for the genesis of the patient´s condition.

For the United Nations however, the main problems affecting these families are the lack of adequate resources for the foundation of appropriate health facilities in developing countries to educate people. Like AIDS stigma and discrimination, which then link them in such societies, constitute important barriers to diagnosis and treatment.

Diagnosing the “evil” therefore manifests as one of the most substantial steps. But this diagnosis requires the active participation of parents. What is the way they can be motivated to do so, if not through relentless media campaigns? The media is a powerful tool in every developing and developed country and will definitely attract the necessary attention this condition needs to be given in our society. Massive outreach campaigns and awareness of autism appears to be increasing necessity, as one child out of 60 in Cameroon is autistic. This method will help improve awareness and identify victims through free consultations.

The problem is that campaigns are not given the right contribution and therefore must first be instituted as a result of political will. The government must be able to show that its pledges do not remain theoretical but also practical before people. In fact, it must start believing them, which is the case of the whole African countries and some of the Middle Eastern ones. It’s complicated, but very much possible to achieve if the will is there.