Online ISSN : 2758-0334
Eradication of Open Defecation in the Face of COVID-19 in Hunter-gatherer Societies: Challenges Faced and a Sense of Belonging among Baka Hunter-gatherers in Cameroon (Association Okani Reports)
Venant MesseCharles NsonkaliKoji HayashiAkira SaiTaro Yamauchi
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2023 Volume 7 Issue 1 Pages 29-35


The importance of good hygiene attitude and practice has been championed by several United Nations organizations. This has been explicitly demonstrated through the recent COVID-19 pandemic as certain communities are at greater risk of exposure to the pathogen due to inaccessible and inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene services and facilities; in this regard, Sub-Saharan Africa is one the most vulnerable regions. In Cameroon, indigenous societies are as vulnerable as urban slum dwellers because they are geographically unreachable, often not receiving sufficient support. In addition, these communities face identity issues caused by policies which may affect their mental health. Association Okani is a local organization that targets and supports indigenous societies in Cameroon, and focuses on ensuring human rights, equity, and development in their communities. Their focus is to improve living conditions by investing in capacity-building and highlighting the voices of and awareness among hunter-gatherer communities, such as the Baka communities, residing in various parts around the country. In this project, we created toilets with locals to eradicate open defecation that may lead to fecal-oral transmission of pathogens. Moreover, we conducted a semi-structured interview with the Baka on their lifestyle. Participants reported feeling anxiety about an unwanted change in their lifestyle, which was brought on through government displacement. Being displaced from the forest in which they have lived negatively impacted their ‘sense of belonging.’ Such concerns need to be considered when determining interventions, including pandemic prevention measures. This study provides valuable insight for organizations that aim to support indigenous societies internationally, and scholars interested in identity issues among indigenous groups.

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© 2023 International Society for Sanitation Studies

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