Cameroon shares common challenges with neighboring Central African countries. Conflict refugees are flooding the system, putting a strain on humanitarian aid. People have limited access to health care providers, and especially in rural areas. The reduction of disease and bacterial infection is progressing, but death rates are still high. Read on to learn more about these 10 facts about life expectancy in Cameroon.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cameroon
- Conflict and corruption are important factors to consider when exploring these 10 facts about life expectancy in Cameroon. The war against Boko Haram has compromised security. The 2019 Africa Cup of Nations financial scandal revealed shady dealings and the skimming of public funds. Bribery and nepotism are creating problems for reaching economic goals with inconsistently paid worker’s salaries, often without earned overtime pay. The government of Cameroon, in cooperation with its national and international partners, is working hard to keep its people in the foreground of global concern. Active work toward reducing corruption and conflict is vital to the improvement of life expectancy in Cameroon.
- Conflict in the bordering countries of Nigeria and the Central African Republic (CAR) has added some 361,700 refugees to the already struggling population of 27,744,989 citizens. Fundamental to the improvement of life expectancy in Cameroon is to continue developing strategies for managing the fallout from conflict in neighboring countries. Ongoing conflicts have closed down trade routes, markets and schools. Responding to the protection and shelter of refugees has diverted aid and is contributing to the already low life expectancy of Cameroonians.
- Limited access to health care is a challenge for Cameroonians. With the goal of improving life expectancy by identifying needs and gaps in the health care system, Cameroon set a national strategic development plan in motion. The most recent data available showed an unequal distribution of health care providers in 2010. There were 1.1 doctors and 7.8 nurses and midwives per 10,000 population, with rural areas having the greatest need. Between 2006 and 2008, the implementation of an emergency plan to train and recruit more health care workers helped to offset a large number of health care workers aging out of the workforce.
- HIV/AIDS has dealt the greatest blow to life expectancy in Cameroon. With life expectancy at birth averaging 59.8 years of age, 540,000 people are living with HIV. In 2018, there were 23,000 new HIV infections, a decrease from 36,000 in 2010. Since then, the death rate has dropped 19 percent to 18,000. Outreach and education about HIV have paid off by improving access to testing and treatment. In 2018, 59 percent of HIV positive women and 47 percent of HIV positive men received treatment.
- Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS often occur as co-infections. Though tuberculosis treatment coverage is 53 percent, HIV predisposes for tuberculosis co-infection, increasing the risk 20-fold of its progression from latent to an active infection. A systematic data collection and review of medical records for a 93-month period between 2010 and 2017 revealed that the co-infection rate in the Fako division was alarmingly high at 194 cases per 100,000 population. The good news is that the study revealed a high treatment success rate with 76.4 percent of the patients cured.
- There is good news and bad news for the treatment and prevention of malaria. Clearly, communicable diseases are the leading cause of premature death in Cameroon, and malaria is another item topping these 10 facts about life expectancy in Cameroon. Health care facilities have seen a reduction in cases to one per 2,000 population, treating 3.3 to 3.7 million cases per year, a reduction of 24 percent as of the year 2017. Insect control measures through the distribution of over 20 million insecticide-treated mosquito nets and the strategic spraying of DDT have significantly lowered the risk of contracting the disease. However, the situation is still out of control. With 16 identified primary and secondary strains of the plasmodium parasite and up to 52 strains altogether, mutation and resistance to drug treatments and insecticides is an ongoing problem.
- There is little available data on bacterial and respiratory infections. Bacterial lower respiratory infections and co-infections are examples of the need for better diagnostic tools for the tracking, management and treatment of illnesses that impact life expectancy in Cameroon. Few studies tracking the number of cases country-wide are available, but a 2019 hospital-based review study of tested cultures from 141 adult patients with symptoms showed that pneumonia and influenza are most prevalent. Fourteen out of 61 patients had co-infections, with influenza implicated in 12 out of 61 cases.
- The youngest children are the most vulnerable to bacterial infection. An earlier hospital-based review study revealed more tangible information about the cause of death for children under 5 years of age. The study gathered and examined medical records for 812 children who died between 2006 and 2012. Communicable and parasitic diseases, respiratory diseases, sepsis and nutritional deficiencies related to being too sick to eat were responsible for 71.5 percent of the deaths.
- Conflict has forced farmers to abandon their fields, taking away jobs in agriculture and creating further limits on already limited natural resources. The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations have increased funding since 2013. In 2019, Cameroon spent $19.55 million with the goal of reducing dependence on aid through supporting the immediate needs of food security, safe drinking water, sanitation and access to primary health care. The Joint Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019 requested $299 million to assist 2.3 million people in Cameroon. Of this money, $29.5 million went to food security, $3.5 million went to nutrition requirements, $3.2 million went to shelter and non-food items and $1.8 million went to health care requirements.
- Cameroon’s economy is a roller-coaster. A roller-coaster economy directly impacts life expectancy by creating financial limits on the quality of life for citizens of Cameroon. Conflict in the C.A.R., the war against Boko Haram, labor disputes over wages and working conditions, corruption and falling tax revenue all add context to these 10 facts about life expectancy in Cameroon. The good news is that the National Anti-corruption Commission, and other such agencies working with the government, have helped restore 375 billion CFA francs to the government coffers. The nation’s economy grew 4.1 percent in 2019, but inflation increased to 2.4 percent. Cameroon’s budget has decreased in recent years as lower oil prices have impacted its chief source of revenue. The government persists in engaging foreign investors for the improvement of infrastructure and to enhance its economic footprint.
These 10 facts about life expectancy in Cameroon indicate the country’s challenges in maintaining a high life expectancy for its people. However, its life expectancy should improve through funding, improving medical care and reducing corruption.
– Lorna Kelly
Photo: Wikimedia Commons