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Africa

Cameroonian family pleads for aid for Siamese twins

A family in Cameroon is asking for assistance to transfer their conjoined twins to the US for specialized surgery. So-called Siamese twins are considered evil in rural Cameroon and some of them end up being killed.

38-year-old Julius Banla Ndi plays with his conjoined twins inside a special room at the Chantal Biya Foundation in Cameroon's capital Yaounde. The twins, named Davis and Darrel, who are joined at the stomach, cheerfully play with their father as they face each other.

Julius said he had been anxiously expecting the birth of his twins. He however, had no clue that their arrival would bring such a heavy burden along. "I feel as if it is the end of the world for me," Julius told DW in an interview. "When I see them, I cry and say "God what is this. Why is this happening to me?" "

Two months before the children were born, Julius lost his job as a photographer. This makes it even harder for him to support his wife Evelyn, who became paralyzed as a result of the cesarean operation. Their home is located in Ndonga Mantung in north western Cameroon, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Yaounde.

Conjoined twins are traditionally accused of witchcraft and some have been killed in parts of north western Cameroon. But Julius said he believes his sons are a gift from God.

From the village to Yaounde

Together, the Siamese twins now weigh 6 kilograms (13 pounds). They were brought to the Chantal Biya Foundation by Ruth Ali Enow. She works for the nongovernmental organization Youth and Gender Welfare Association.

A Cameroonian father holds his siamese twins in Yaounde.

Julius hopes to take his Siamese twins to the US for surgery

Enow said the hospital in the family's home area was overwhelmed with the birth of the Siamese twins. So she convinced the parents to have them transferred to Yaounde. "Strangely, their hearts, their kidneys and their livers are not on the side they are supposed to be," Enow said. "One of them has his testicles around the abdomen," she said.

Medical scans have revealed that some of their organs like the intestines are interwoven. Some minor but not vital organs are also joined and working together. Because of that, the babies have to be put on a special diet to prevent either of them developing extreme temperatures. "If one of them falls sick, the other will be affected," Enow said.

Seeking help

Julius spends every day hoping that someone will help them raise $15,000 (13,000 euros), to fly the twins to the United States where they can undergo specialized surgery to separate them.

Doctor Koki Ndomba Paul who has been attending to the boys told DW, Cameroon does not have the facilities to undertake such a delicate operation.

Conjoined twins seated in their home.

Conjoined twins require round the clock care. Americans Donnie and Ronnie Galyon are the longest living Siamese twins

He however noted they had done everything possible to find the extent to which the twins were joined. "Immediately they arrived, we realized they were in fairly good condition, apart from some superficial infections," Ndomba Paul said.

"We took them to the x-ray department and we carried out a total body scan of each baby so as to appreciate especially the area of the thorax and the abdomen to see exactly the level of attachment of each one to the other," the pediatrician said.

The conjoined twins have reignited a debate on revamping social insurance in Cameroon. Currently only 10 percent of all public servants are covered. Many people are also now asking why the government apparently remains indifferent to those in need.

The NGO assisting the twins has opened an account at a bank in Yaounde for donations to help get the twins to the US.

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