The establishment of four new Regional Research Ethics Committees through the BREEDSAFCA project

In Cameroon the first ethics committee was created in 1987. However, its functioning was centralised and thus the ethical review process could not be adapted to the various cultural realities of the regions in Cameroon. The 2012 reorganised the ethical review system by creating and assigning missions to national, regional and institutional review organs. Before 2021, as a result of limited resources, only two of the 10 regions of Cameroon were covered with regional ethics committees, namely the South Regional Ethics committee and the Centre Regional Ethics Committee. The BREEDSAFCA project, which started in 2018, planned to improve the coverage in the country with additional regional ethics committees and institutional ethics committees.

All BREEDSAFCA stakeholders and partners merged efforts to ensure that the two regional ethics committees planned to be established were set up, namely the Littoral and the West Regional Ethics Committees. Due to administrative difficulties, the planned institutional ethics committee at university could not be set up and was instead replaced by the two additional Regional committees in the North West and North Regions.

The West Regional Ethics Committee was created on 27 August 2021. The Littoral Regional Ethics Committee was created on 16 September 2021. These ethics committees are operational and have reviewed more than 120 protocols between September 2021 and December 2022. Two more Regional Ethics Committees in the North West and the North Region were established on 18 and 30 January 2023 respectively.

National ethics committees coverage

With the setting up of these four regional ethics committees through BREEDSAFCA, the national coverage of ethics committees in Cameroon has been raised from 20% (before 2021) to 60% in 2023. This has greatly improved the mechanisms for research protection of participants through the decentralisation of the research ethics evaluation system to the six regions of Cameroon, contributing towards ameliorating and adapting the research ethics evaluation system to the various cultures. The stakeholders involved are currently mobilising resources and partners to ensure complete coverage of the regions in terms of ethics committees and training of members at all these committees in the ethical evaluation of human health research protocols.