Hunger in Cameroon
Commonly called “Africa in miniature,” many know Cameroon for its geographical diversity and cultural vibrance. However, despite its status as a nation of peace and steadiness, Cameroon nonetheless faces a multitude of threats to the food security of millions of its citizens. A staggering 2.6 million people in Cameroon are facing phase three (crisis) food insecurity, leading to severe malnutrition and stunting for vulnerable children. In order to find solutions to reducing hunger in Cameroon, one must explore the causes behind such significant food insecurity. Here are five reasons behind Cameroon’s hunger crisis.

5 Causes of Hunger in Cameroon

  1. Violence from Boko Haram’s presence in Nigeria has spilled into the Far North of Cameroon. Boko Haram’s terrorist activities in Nigeria have caused more than 100,000 Nigerians to take refuge in Cameroon. More than 300,000 Cameroonians have experienced displacement as a result of Boko Haram’s terrorism. Not only do fleeing refugees place an additional burden on the already strained food resources of Cameroon, but the internal displacement of Cameroonians due to violence prevents farmers from accessing agricultural fields. In 2016, Cameroon’s cereal production in regions that Boko Haram has affected decreased by 25% from the previous year.
  2. Armed rebel forces are stealing livestock by the thousand. Tension rose between ethnic Mbororo ranchers and armed separatists after the Mbororo refused to support the separatist’s mission to form a new anglo-Christian state. This denial has led the armed separatists to steal thousands of the ranchers’ cattle between July and September 2020 in order to fund and feed their army. Furthermore, the Mbororo have been victims of kidnapping and murder by separatists, which has led to more than 11,000 Mbororo relocating.
  3. Farmers are exporting grain instead of selling it domestically. The lack of profitability of domestic sales of grain has led farmers to export goods to neighboring countries such as Nigeria. This has led Cameroon to block farmer’s cereal and grain exports in the Far North. The Food Control Unit seized 6,000 tons of grain and will return them when owners commit to selling only in Cameroon. This policy aims to improve the tenuous food security, reducing hunger in Cameroon and increasing resilience against famine.
  4. Climate disasters such as drought and floods have stressed food supplies and agricultural centers. Future solutions must focus on disaster preparation and being proactive instead of retroactive in mitigating disaster reduction. The lack of preemptive warning systems has prevented the mitigation of the African Sahel Floods, which displaced 1,500 hundred families in September 2020. A legislative emphasis on implementing early warning systems and disaster risk reduction equipment and technology will be critical to mitigating the damage future climate disasters have on the food supply. The government should focus on land use management and educating the public about disasters to lower their effects when they do occur.
  5. Almost 700,000 Cameroonians have been internally displaced by drought, floods and violent conflict, 40% of whom are children under 5. These children are especially vulnerable to the effects of malnutrition and may never recover to optimal health. Around 31.7% of children under 5 suffer from stunting, which is a higher rate than the average of 25% for developing countries.

Combating Hunger in Cameroon

These causes of hunger in Cameroon suggest a clear pattern of turbulence in the Far North. It is integral to focus on devoting resources to this area and promoting organizations that provide relief to this hunger afflicted population.

In order to combat malnutrition, organizations such as the World Food Programme (WFP) and Action Against Hunger have been working to allocate supplies and introduce health education and services in regions lacking such resources. In 2019, Action Against Hunger reached more than 300,000 Cameroonians through nutrition, health, and food security programs. Action Against Hunger distributes food supplies and sets up clinics to supply displaced people with health and medical care.

Among its numerous initiatives, the World Food Programme targets improving nutritional access and education for Cameroon’s under 5 population. The WFP uses strategies including giving financial support and training to smallholder farmers and providing communities in need with food assistance to improve their resilience. WFP has had a presence in Cameroon since 1978 and succeeded in reaching over 400,000 people in 2019 through its food and nutrition assistance initiatives.

Cameroon is facing threats to its food supply from violence, disaster and poor government support. Fortunately, organizations such as the WFP and Action Against Hunger are working tirelessly to improve the nation’s food security so the people of Cameroon can live healthy and happy lives.

– Adrian Rufo
Photo: Flickr

Flooding in CameroonFlooding in Cameroon is common during the rainy season, greatly impacting the northern regions. In recent years, flooding has worsened in the north and harmed access to livelihoods which has impacted those in poverty. While these natural disasters are not entirely preventable, organizations are working with Cameroon’s government to lessen their effects.

History of Flooding in Cameroon

In 2015, flooding in Cameroon displaced thousands of people. The country’s capital city, Yaoundé, as well as the large population city of Douala, are vulnerable to flooding. By August of 2015, the flooding disaster had impacted 40,000 people in those cities.

The capital itself has experienced 130 floods in the past, between the years of 1980 and 2014. All of those floods caused economic damage as well as the loss of life. Flooding in cities can also lead to disease outbreaks because bugs and bacteria can live in the still floodwater.

In 2019, flooding impacted Cameroon’s northern region. The floods greatly impacted livelihoods because about 70% of people in the area are farmers. When the Logone River overflowed, it impacted the agriculture that occurs on the floodplain next to it. ACAPS, an organization that helps disaster responders through research, reported that the flooding affected things like “fishing, rice production, and pasture.”

The region in the far north of Cameroon is also the poorest. About 75% of the population experiences greater risk during floods because poorer households often live in homes made from materials such as straw roofing. These materials are not durable long-term and are, therefore, negatively impacted by floodwater. This is not the first time the Logone river and the northern region have flooded. In 2012, a flood in the area damaged 30,000 households.

The Path to Recovery

Since 2014, The World Bank has been working on the Flood Emergency Project in Cameroon. This project came into being after flooding on the Logone and in northern Cameroon. About “100,000 are being protected from annual risks of floods,” and disaster risk management and livelihoods in the region have improved.

After the 2015 floods, the government worked to decrease the number of floods that affect cities, particularly the capital. The government built a “drainage canal network” which cost about $102 million USD, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The idea of the project is to include a waste treatment and disposal plant as well as four more drainage canals.

“The first phase of the project helped to scale down the number of floods from 15 to three annually. But much still remains to be done in order that peripheries which are still vulnerable to floods are completely freed from related risks,” said Serge Mbarga Enama, an engineer at Yaoundé City Council, to UNDRR.

The government also looked at high flood-risk areas and evicted people living in those places. The danger with evicting people from these areas is that they lack enough compensation for the loss of home and some end up returning to flood-risk areas. Others are at risk of becoming homeless in big cities like the capital.

Aside from looking more closely at those living in high-risk areas, the government adopted the “Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.” It is a global agreement that would last 15 years. The goal of the framework is to raise awareness about disasters in order to reduce the effects of flooding in Cameroon.

What is Currently Happening

Since the 2019 floods, the Cameroon Red Cross Society responds to disasters. The organization was able to reach affected areas soon after the floods, only taking a few days. The organization provided first aid and support services, as well as kits filled with essential household items for those in need.

The Cameroon government is still involved with the 15-year Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and working to improve disaster awareness. The UNDRR reported that the program focuses on four key aspects:

  1. Understanding disaster risk

  2. Strengthening disaster risk governance to manage disaster risk

  3. Investing in disaster reduction for resilience and enhancing disaster preparedness for effective response

  4. To “Build Back Better” in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

Cameroon will continue working on the program until 2030.

Flooding in Cameroon has a major impact on the northern region, as well as big cities such as the capital. While floods impact the livelihoods of people in high-risk areas, as well as impact poorer populations more, different things right now address these disasters. The Cameroonian government along with other organizations are working to reduce the impacts of flooding on the people.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in Cameroon
In 2010, the World Health Organization reported that for every 10,000 Cameroonians, there were 7.8 nurses and midwives and 1.1 physicians. In contrast, neighboring Nigeria had 16.1 nurses and midwives and four physicians. Rural areas in Cameroon had the fewest healthcare workers. A 2015 study further showed that money was an indicator of whether university students sought out healthcare treatment. The study also reported that the treatment and prevention of malaria, a disease that’s been linked to poverty, requires spending about 40% of family incomes. While access to treatment is limited, several organizations are working to improve access to healthcare in Cameroon. Here are five organizations that have improved the healthcare system.

The World Bank

From 2008 to 2017, The World Bank worked to improve healthcare in Cameroon through the Health Sector Support Investment Project. The World Bank provided additional funding to strengthen and scale-up healthcare institutions and improve the monitoring of vulnerable individuals. When the project concluded, it had helped about 3 million women in Cameroon.

The World Bank reported that the project also positively impacted immunizations, childbirth and healthcare access. Around 380,000 children were immunized. Skilled medical professionals helped with about 306,395 births. The number of people in Cameroon with access to “health, nutrition, or reproductive health services” reached 6.8 million. Overall, the project benefitted at least 7.4 million Cameroonians.

USAID and ECOBANK

USAID partnered with Ecobank in order to provide additional funding for healthcare in Cameroon, specifically to support local small and medium enterprises that offer health services. In 2016, USAID and Ecobank gave $3.7 million in funding in the form of loans to impactful organizations, specifically those focused on the health of women and children.

Management Sciences for Health

In 2012, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) partnered with the local Ministry of Health in order to improve healthcare in Cameroon. The organizations still have a partnership today. MSH has worked on improving family planning and reproductive healthcare, as well as improving healthcare practices when it comes to treating and preventing malaria, TB and HIV.

As a result of MSH’s efforts, 3,431 Cameroonians received contraception, and 10,497 women received education on family planning between October 2015 and September 2016. Information and referrals were provided to 13,000 women for reproductive health and family planning. Pre-birth counseling increased by 49% with the help of MSH’s Leadership Development Program. The program also increased postpartum counseling by 59%.

During 2016, healthcare facilities reported that antiretroviral medicines, which can be used to treat HIV, were out of stock only 9% of the time — down from 100% in 2014. Of 129 HIV treatment and prevention sites, 87% had “complete patient information” at the end of 2015, which helped keep track of HIV patient data. MHS also created the West Africa HIV & AIDS Commodity Tracking Tool and began using it to gather data to help HIV program managers make informed decisions.

MHS also helped with a national program to control malaria, increased the capacity of healthcare institutions to help with “torture rehabilitation” and improved management of tuberculosis through an internet tool called “e-TB Manager.”

International Medical Corps

The International Medical Corps works in Cameroon to train medical professionals and help with the provision of medical supplies. The organization extends to rural areas, as well as any areas that lack access to healthcare in Cameroon. The Medical Corps provides “preventive and curative services, mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) and reproductive health services including ante- and post-natal care to both refugee and vulnerable host populations.” In 2018, The International Medical Corps reported providing 81,266 healthcare consultations to Cameroonians during a three-month time frame.

The Global Citizens Initiative

In 2013, the Global Citizens Initiative launched the Cameroon Healthcare Access Program. It was created to address the corruption present in Cameroon’s healthcare system. The World Justice Project reported that some citizens were forced to pay when seeking medical attention that should have been “free under the law.”

The goals of this project include addressing corruption through a National Healthcare Access Coalition, raising awareness about governmental healthcare policies, ensuring consumers are aware of their “basic right to healthcare” and tracking changes as the program progresses. When interviewed about the project in 2013, Tarh Frambo, Country Director of the Global Citizens Initiative in Cameroon, said that “the fund is going to help us implement our project on the Cameroon healthcare access, which aims at stemming the practice of corruption as it manifests itself in the public healthcare system of the country.” According to the World Justice Project, the program is still active and will decrease corruption and help give communities more access to healthcare in Cameroon.

In 2014, an update on the project showed that a “national coalition of multidisciplinary stakeholders” had been formed to address corruption. The coalition held workshops on the pros of being corruption-free and on healthcare law overall. Public service announcements were also being used to inform citizens about their healthcare rights.

Conclusion

The numbers show that access to healthcare in Cameroon is an ongoing problem. Since the WHO’s 2010 fact sheet on healthcare in Cameroon, however, The World Bank, USAID and ECOBANK, MSH, the International Medical Corps, and the Global Citizens Initiative have created programs that improved the healthcare system for the people of this country, leading to greater coverage and treatment for Cameroonians in need.

– Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Cameroon
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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Helen Keller International
Helen Keller International (HIK) is an organization that is dedicated to helping the world’s poor by combating poverty, blindness, poor health and malnutrition for all people. It predominately helps those who are less fortunate and do not have accessibility to the resources that help maintain an adequate living.

The Main Focus

HIK primarily focuses on preventing blindness in people by providing them with cataract surgery, vision correction and distributing treatments and cures for tropical diseases. This is how it plans on combating poverty in developing countries. It currently has more than 120 programs in about 20 countries all over the world.

It works with various partners to implement strategies that will combat poverty and strengthen these programs. Some of its partners include organizations such as the West African Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF, World Health Organization and the World Food Program.

Helen Keller International’s Accomplishments

According to reports from Impact Information in 2018, HIK provided 15,000 free precision glasses to disadvantaged youth and performed 40,000 cataract surgeries.

In 2014, USAID funded a five-year Morbidity Management and Disability Prevention Project (MMDP) to strengthen illness management and prevent disabilities in African countries. HIK has led the MMDP project in Burkina Faso, Cameroon and Ethiopia since July 2014. As a result, thousands of people have benefited from HIK’s help and dedication to the project.

The project combats painful diseases such as trichiasis which can cause scarring to the cornea because it causes the eyelash to grow backward. The project also treats hydrocele, which causes the male scrotum to swell causing extreme pain. This is most common in male newborns.

HIK’s work with the MMDP project in the countries above has helped 2.1 million people get screenings for trichiasis and 76,000 people received trichiasis surgery. Additionally, HIK was able to train 280 trichiasis surgeons. This organization also provided hydrocele surgery to over 2,000 men and trained 200 hydrocele surgeons. HIK has changed the lives of many people at risk.

Global Impact

Helen Keller International is combating poverty by improving the lives of the world’s poor at a global level as well. The MMDP project improves data availability and use by sharing knowledge worldwide. The project also assisted in developing tools and resources for communities to use internationally in trachoma and LF programs around the world.

HIK believes that neglected tropical diseases are direct consequences of poverty. To combat this poverty it has turned its focus to protect health. HIK aids in the fight against five diseases including trachoma, river blindness, intestinal worms, snail fever and lymphatic filariasis. All of these diseases cause extreme pain and can even lead to death.

To combat these diseases, HIK has helped deliver thousands of trachoma surgeries to poor communities and will continue to do so in hopes of eliminating trachoma by 2020. The organization has helped develop a platform that is effective in the treatment of river blindness across Africa. HIK also helps developing countries distribute deworming medication to children in at-risk communities.

Helen Keller International is combating poverty all over the world through efforts to protect health and advert the causes of blindness and more in poor countries. Through its efforts, it has aided many in poverty and that number should only grow.

– Jessica Jones
Photo: Flickr

Cameroon’s Agriculture Industry
There is potential for growth in Cameroon’s agriculture industry. Although Cameroon is Africa’s fourth-largest cocoa producer, the country imports more than $800 million worth of cereal, flour and fish to feed its people and meet demands in production.

The subsistence agriculture industry employs more than 50 percent of Cameroonians, which requires hard labor without machinery. Cameroon President Paul Biya emphasized the need for a more productive and modern agriculture industry that would benefit small and medium-sized farms. The World Bank, Nestle and the IFC have made various efforts to develop the Cameroonian agriculture sector.

World Bank Project

The World Bank created the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project to improve the productivity of subsistence crops such as cassava, maize and sorghum. The project began in 2014, costs $166 million and closes on July 2021. The areas of focus range from improving seed quality and public infrastructure to enhancing agricultural technology and distribution systems. Commercial farming is rare. This is why the World Bank is helping create a dominant industry that departs from the old, inefficient and arduous ways of subsistence farming.

Various targets under the project are complete. Yields in cassava, maize and sorghum have all increased. Maize yields have already surpassed the set target while cassava and sorghum are just below their targeted yields. The project has implemented more than 86 sub-projects out of the target goal of 100. More than 15,000 clients have adopted improved agricultural technology that the project introduced, and there are more than 139,000 direct project beneficiaries out of the goal of 150,000. The project also distributed more than 16 million cassava seeds. Although the project ends in July 2021, it met many of its targets. The project benefited Cameroon’s agriculture industry and will continue to do so thanks to the World Bank and its partners.

A Win-Win Scenario

Due to Cameroon’s position as a trade hub off the coast of Africa, companies are seeing opportunities in the growing agriculture industry. Tiger Brands bought Cameroonian company Chococam in 2008 and afterward saw “excellent growth in operating income, driven by strong volume growth and tight cost management.” Nestle produces its Maggi stock cubes in Cameroon but wants more inputs from local farmers. Nestle views it as a win-win scenario, as it gives Nestle a competitive advantage and also helps local farmers and rural development. Nestle also wants to create a starch similar to cornstarch from Cameroon’s cassava plant. It currently imports cornstarch from Europe.

The insurance industry is also developing Cameroon’s agriculture industry and helping farmers insure their crops. International Finance Corporation (IFC) partners ACTIVA Assurance and AXA Cameroon are two insurance companies that provided index insurance to nearly 8,000 cotton growers. Index insurance helps farmers during climatic shocks, such as floods that are common in the country. The goal of IFC and its partners is to provide 135,000 agricultural index insurance contracts by the end of 2020. This will enable 700,000 farm households to offset yield reductions during natural disasters.

Future of the Industry

Companies and NGOs aided Cameroon’s growing agriculture industry either directly or indirectly. Progress is ongoing, but more the industry requires more to develop and help those in poverty. About 90 percent of the poor reside in rural areas, where the main source of income comes from subsistence farming. Thanks to the World Bank, Nestle, Tiger Brands and various NGOs and nonprofits, Cameroon is seeing positive growth in agriculture development.

– Lucas Schmidt
Photo: Flickr

The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
The Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has internally displaced half a million people. Many are seeking refuge in forests with little access to medical care and portable water. Only recently has the world acknowledged the crisis, despite three years of growing human rights abuses driving the country to the brink of civil war.

The Makings of a Disaster

French and English are the official languages of Cameroon, which consists of 10 semi-autonomous regions. However, the Northwest and Southwest English-speaking regions have felt marginalized by the central government for decades.

Anglophones make up 20 percent of the population and have long complained of few job opportunities and the predominance of Francophones. When the government assigned French-speaking teachers and judges to anglophone schools and courts, anglophone lawyers and teachers felt that it violated their rights, leading to peaceful protests in 2016.

Government security forces responded by killing four protestors and arresting around 100, including several anglophone leaders. The government even banned civil society groups seeking a peaceful solution.

Escalating the Crisis

In 2017, an anglophone separatist group declared a new independent state called Ambazonia. In a pro-Ambazonia demonstration, security forces killed 17 people. The Borgen Project interviewed Mausi Segun, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW) in Africa, who said, “If anyone is putting the abuses on both sides on a scale, the government has the upper hand. They have the most effective military equipment.”

Security forces have killed unarmed civilians and burned down villages. Meanwhile, authorities are arresting civilians on suspicion of supporting or belonging to the separatist movement. A number of those held on suspicion are undergoing torture.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh, a Regional Director at the National Democratic Institute told The Borgen Project that authorities are catching civilians in a web of violence and mistaken affinity. “They can be arrested for not having their identification card,” he said.

As authorities hold anglophones in detention without trial, lose property and loved ones, resentment and distrust in the government is growing, fueling the grievances of the separatist movement. “We’re concerned the government is throwing the military, and arms and ammunition at a problem that is beyond just a military one,” Segun said.

Armed separatists have committed unlawful abuses as well, including killing security forces, kidnapping students and burning down approximately 36 schools. The International Crisis Group reported the killing of 235 soldiers, along with 1,000 separatists and 650 civilians.

Although one can blame the Anglophone Crisis on a failure of governance, Fomunyoh said that it is no longer a governance issue, “It’s now one of political insecurity.”

International Response

Cameroon now has the sixth-largest displaced population in the world. A wider conflict could threaten the entire region, impacting bordering countries such as Chad and Nigeria, who are fighting Boko Haram alongside Cameroon.

In March 2019, after three years of growing systematic violence, the U.N. human rights chief told the Cameroon government that its violent response will only fuel more violence and the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) held its first meeting on the crisis in the following May. The E.U. called on Cameroon’s government to initiate a dialogue with armed separatists and Switzerland agreed to act as a mediator.

Fomunyoh said that countries may have been slow to respond because they expected African organizations to intervene. The African Union (A.U.) is one such organization, which has intervened in precarious situations before, including South Sudan’s recent crackdown on protestors. The A.U. called on Sudan to restore civil law and expelled the country from the Union. Although the A.U. has endorsed Switzerland’s peace talks, it has yet to take further action.

Solutions

Fomunyoh said that there are three divided propositions to the Anglophone Crisis, “The Amba boys who want separation, those who want a federation and those who believe the status quo is fine the way it is,” however, the first step should be to end this violence.

All parties need to agree to a cease-fire, separatists need to allow children to go back to school and the government should release anglophone prisoners so they can be part of finding a solution. Although the idea of federalism has almost become taboo, Human Rights Lawyer Felix Agbor Nkongho strongly believes it would appease all sides.

“People would have a separation of powers. People would have the autonomy,” said Nkongho. However, the government has made promises in the past it did not keep.

Cameroon’s previous federation dissolved in 1972 under the same government. So, promises to implement any agreement will not mean anything unless the government regains trust. Segun believes this can start by holding those guilty of human rights abuses accountable. “To sacrifice justice on the order peace would only lead to more violence and a crisis later, if not immediately.”

Preventing a future crisis also requires healing from the trauma, which is Fomunyoh’s biggest concern. If the country does not make investments in healing, it could threaten future security by creating an environment where corruption thrives.

“When you have dead bodies in the street when that becomes the norm, then other abuses like assault, rape, theft, are pale in comparison,” said Fomunyoh. The Anglophone Crisis can become much direr and have unintended long-lasting consequences.

International solidarity helped South Africa’s struggle against apartheid. The AU and UNSC helped resolve Côte d’Ivoire’s post-election crisis. There is no reason that Cameroon cannot stop its Anglophone Crisis.

Emma Uk
Photo: Flickr

 

Better Internet Access in Africa

Africa stands as a vast and untapped continent that holds high promise for harnessing the power of the Internet. As better Internet access in Africa increases, more people are using the tools of the Internet to empower themselves. They are additionally using it to fuel innovation to find solutions to many of their problems. A term that has started gaining emphasis concerning the Internet in Africa is The Internet of Things. It presents a harmony between hardware and software systems toward the goal of automating many different aspects of society. According to McKinsey & Company, the Internet of Things “has a total potential economic impact of $3.9 trillion” in Africa, meaning that Africans who properly tap into that potential can wield its power to empower themselves.

An important aspect of the Internet of Things is how simple it is for common African citizens to create apps that can provide amazing solutions that address specific and local problems. With a basic education in technological skills, anyone can bring electricity to a village or proper air conditioning to houses in their neighborhood.

Investing in Better Internet Access in Africa

Many global internet companies are attempting to accelerate the expansion of the Internet in Africa by heavily investing in the continent. One example is that “with Internet.org, Facebook wants to provide millions of people…in Africa, with access to the Internet.” This access would be provided for free. Africans can harness this Internet for startups and other entrepreneurial pursuits. These pursuits can boost African nations’ ability to be competitive in the global economy.

In the Congo, Tujiung is “a computer resource center for women coping with violence.” This is essential for the recovery of many women who are victims of the violence that has become rampant due to the political instability in the country. Tujiung provides women with access to information, education and support services through the Internet. This line of communication can help women effectively cope with violence. Additionally, it empowers them to move past being a victim and strive for a normal life.

Making Africa Computer-Literate

With overall low computer literacy in Africa, women are striving to fill in open jobs. For example, a volunteer group called Help to Help attempts to improve gender equality by having boot camps that teach young Tanzanian women how to code and develop their tech skills. Those girls are empowered by their newly developed skills to get into tech careers that propel them to the forefront of innovation in Africa.

The Internet, with its amazing capabilities, provides promise for the biggest continent in the world, Africa. The Internet is rapidly growing in Africa. Better Internet access in Africa results in rapidly increasing empowerment for African citizens. Women are pushing to gain technological literacy. Their skills give them the ability to gain more equality in the workplace and society at large.

-Anish Kelkar
Photo: Flickr

Credit Access in Cameroon

Cameroon is a country in Central Africa located right below the Sahara Desert. With a population close to 24 million, estimates show that 48 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The majority of those who live in poverty reside in northern, rural regions. Although Cameroon has experienced growth in GDP since 2018, it is the largest economy in the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), a region that has suffered in Africa due to the fall of oil prices. Cameroon aims to become an emerging country by 2035, which means the real GDP will have to grow by 8 percent. In order to reach this goal, credit access is an advancement that must be focused on. Seeking a solution for credit access in Cameroon is a crucial task for its government.

Unfortunately, in 2017, only 10 percent of Cameroon’s population reported that they have a bank account.

Agriculture and the Economy

It’s clear that financial services and education are not reaching a large portion of Cameroon’s population. Often described as a miniature Africa, Cameroon exhibits all the climates of the continent, with a large chain of mountains separating the arid and green regions. This terrain presents a challenge in acclimating the population to new advancements such as mobile banking and loan access.

Cameroon’s economy is rooted in agriculture, something found mostly in rural regions where access to credit is poor. Because of the country’s rich landscape and natural resources, 70 percent of the population’s labor force is in Cameroon farms. However, 23 percent of farmer households rely on subsistence farming, which means they are working to feed themselves and their family. This is an alternative to both consuming and selling the produce.

While subsistence farming can provide a family with a self-sufficient method towards survival, its success is dependent on a non-hazardous climate and funding. Specifically, this is access to expensive chemical fertilizers. Subsistence farming also doesn’t help improve the economy’s investment sector when many people are farming to live instead of making money to save. Most farmers sell their products at the marketplace, where physical cash is exchanged for goods. Out of the 90 percent who do not own a bank account, the majority reported that they had no money to save or made no regular income.

A Need to Expand Credit Access in Cameroon

There are currently around 840 or so accredited microfinance institutions in Cameroon. The country’s loan performance has worsened due to the number of uninformed loans given to consumers. In 2018, the Risk Prevention Bureau for Microfinance (CREMF) was established as a system that helps these institutions track and disseminate the correct data on all their customers. This makes it somewhat easier for them to recover borrowed money. However, the challenge is still present: the majority of these microfinance institutions are in rural areas with low internet connectivity. This makes it difficult to continue giving out loans to those who need them.

In order to make credit access in Cameroon more financially inclusive, mobile services must be extended to rural areas. Additionally, services should also cover financial education and funding for farmers. In 2008, Express Union introduced mobile money. Mobile money offers a quick method for payments and access to finances.

While there are 6.8 million subscribers, there are only 1.5 million active users of mobile money services. The biggest challenge is implementing a cashless culture in a country that is reliant on a cash-based agricultural market.

Improvement Efforts

In order to establish an equal financial climate, the government of Cameroon and the World Bank Group renewed its strategy. This 2017-2021 project focuses on three main areas:

  1. poverty traps in rural areas
  2. access to better transportation
  3. improving weak governance.

The main objectives of this framework are increased market productivity in the agricultural sectors, improved health and improved access to credit in Cameroon.

Another solution to help foster jobs in Cameroon is the Agriculture Investment and Market Development Project (AIMD). Participants of this project are working to pave a bridge between agriculture and agribusiness. For example, this includes:

  • educating farmers on new techniques
  • providing them with the means to create quality produce
  • connecting them with agro-industrial companies like Guinness through mobile applications.

These advancements have helped to boost the financial sector and improve credit access in Cameroon. As a result, the livelihood of the country’s poor has improved. With consistent improvement, it’s possible that Cameroon’s economy can emerge into one that is economically stable, with more equally-distributed prosperity among regions.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Pexels

 

maternal and child mortality

Cameroon borders the coast of the Gulf of Guinea in Central Africa. The country is home to around 25.3 million people, comprising around 0.3 percent of the world’s population. Its population has increased significantly from 17 million in 2002. The nation has faced a number of health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, but is primarily plagued by extremely high maternal and child mortality rates. In 1998, there were 4.3 reported deaths per 1,000 live births. This rate has steadily increased in recent years. The 2018 UNICEF data report states that the national neonatal mortality rate is 24 deaths per 1,000 live births, and is as high as 36 deaths in rural areas.

Combating High Mortality Rates

In 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) performed a study designed to identify the number of infant and mother deaths that occurred during childbirth in 2015 and 2016. The study included four health districts in Cameroon, Specific interventions focused on financing, strengthening necessary human resources, service provision, partnership and advocacy. WHO worked with a Cameroonian reproductive health organization, RMNAH, to train 87 healthcare providers in the operation and organization of regional blood transfusion around the four sectors. The organization also implemented 10 health facilities in central and east regions of Cameroon.

Despite the contributions of WHO and RMNAH, data showed that maternal and child mortality was the same in October 2015 and 2016. In May 2016, researchers traveling to Cameroon with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) discovered a superfood plant that may spark change in mortality rates.

The Superfood

A group of researchers first discovered the potentially transformative plant in the Takamanda rainforest region, located in southwest Cameroon. The group working with CIFOR was traveling to local communities, observing rates of malnutrition and maternal and child mortality and recording variation by village. One researcher, Caleb Yengo Tata, recalled that some communities witnessed infant death every day. The root of recurring health problems was anemia due to iron-deficiency in women who had reached reproductive age. In some regions of Cameroon, 50 percent of women and 65 percent of children face anemia-related health issues. These can include cognitive difficulties, low birth weight and generally increased maternal mortality. Tata and other CIFOR researchers found that women living in grassland communities were more prone to severe anemia than those living in forest areas. Around 75 percent of women inhabiting either terrain experienced a level of anemia.

Researchers found that the difference could be attributed to a dark leafy green plant called “eru,” which grows bountifully throughout rainforests in Cameroon and central Africa. The plant is predicted to have 85 percent more vital nutrients than fresh spinach, and has virtually no anti-nutrients, making it what Westerners would peg a “superfood.” Traditionally, eru is cooked in palm oil and served with crayfish and hot chili. Women in the forest regions of Cameroon have been harvesting the plant for years, but were unaware of its potential health benefits until recently.

The Eru Plant’s Impact

Science has not yet confirmed whether the eru leaf will adequately address the crisis of child and maternal mortality in Cameroon. Researchers found a statistically significant link between eru consumption and lower anemia rates, correlated to lower child and maternal mortality rates. Through research, scientists ruled out other environmental factors that may influence the prevalence of anemia, such as malaria and parasites. However, they were unable to collect information from a large sample. While the data itself is limited, the discovery is a step forward, representing a possibility of change and the beginning of a healthcare breakthrough.

Although significant changes have been made, maternal and child mortality in Cameroon is still high. For those living in the poorest areas of the country, there are 39 deaths per 1,000 live births. Even in areas considered the “richest sectors” report 29 deaths per 1,000 live births. Researchers, nutritional and medical experts and Cameroonians remain hopeful that the newly discovered eru could function as a breakthrough for child and maternal health. If successful, the superfood plant needs to be preserved, along with other micronutrient-dense foods likely hiding among grasslands and forests in rural sectors of the country.

– Anna Lagattuta
Photo: Flickr