Every day, Naronate Akum Ngwa hosts a live show on her TikTok account where she discusses the challenges she experiences since she was shot in the face.
A bullet fired by the military at alleged Cameroonian separatist terrorists hit her in the right eye. She is lucky to be alive.
Five years after the injury, she hosts the show, often joined by other people with disfigurements. They talk about how society perceives them and how they can move forward.
It helps her come to terms with the catastrophic injury that changed her life forever.
“My TikTok followers are like my family,” she says.
She hopes it will provide her with fundraising opportunities so she can at last get the reconstructive surgery she needs.
Naronate was 20 years old when the shooting happened at the market square in Widikum, Northwest region.
She was shot in July 2018 while working with her mother on her food stall. They had just run out of the puff-puff and beans they were selling, when a group of boys came up.
“Some guys came and said they wanted to buy,” Naronate told HumAngle, “I told them that the food was finished. They left, and later returned, asking me to cook jollof rice for them. They said everywhere was closed and no one was selling food.”
Since 2016, the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have been in the middle of a wave of violence, as separatist terrorists attempt to force an independent state out of the two English Speaking regions of Cameroon.
Terrorists enforced “ghost town” orders making people stay at home, under threat of violence. With everything closing early, it was difficult to find meals on sale in the area.
“I prepared the food for them. When they finished eating, I was waiting for the money when the world suddenly stopped,” Naronate said.
“All I could remember was that I had dropped on the floor and my siblings were crying all over me. I felt this sharp pain in my head”.
Naronate before the incident
The Military had identified the boys in her stall as suspected separatist fighters and had opened fire on them, indiscriminately.
When Naronate got hit, she fell down, all she could remember were voices of her siblings and a sharp pain in her head.
She was rushed to the hospital by her family where she spent three months undergoing treatment.
“When I left the hospital, I came back home to face the world again with my disfigured face,” Naronate said.
“At the hospital, you don’t feel bad about your condition because there are many other people with similar cases. When you leave and face the world out there, it’s different.”
Scared of being shamed by her peers, she started sneaking in and out of the house, making sure no one saw her disfigured face.
“I couldn’t even go outside to do what I wanted to do. I was scared. I was ashamed of myself, my condition. I felt like people were going to laugh at me, point fingers at me, I decided to start leaving like a prisoner.”
She and her parents agreed she should move to Europe to get away from the conflict and hopefully get advanced medical reconstructive surgery.
She now lives in Nicosia, Cyprus. But Naronate has not been able to get a job since she moved over there in 2021.
This, she says, is because of her injury.
“They kept on rejecting me, because of my facial disfigurement. Not because I couldn’t work. Some employers told me they couldn’t take me in because I would scare away their customers,” says Naronate.
Desperate to survive, Naronate started knitting. She makes clothes for young girls and sells them on her social media platforms. She also says most people who place orders for the clothes she makes don’t finally pay for it.
Naronate describes her TikTok followers as family. She says they have been motivating her all along. She was encouraged to create a GoFundMe page. The page she says, is to realise her dream of a prosthetic eye reconstructive surgery and bullet removal, which is currently causing her pain, headaches, and other infections. She says doctors couldn’t take out all the bullets in her head during her first operation.
She is hopeful for the future, “I believe that if I have to do this facial reconstruction, everything will be better,” she says.
She has set a target of €10,000, and uses her platform to call on humanitarian organizations and other persons of good will to assist her to be normal again.
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