Female Genital Mutilation in Cameroon
In the Central African nation of Cameroon, many women go about their daily lives as one might expect to see in most other cities across the world. From Douala in the southern region to the capital city of Yaounde, all the way up north toward the smaller, old historical city of N’Gaoundéré, life is beautiful, diverse and unique. However, the practice of female genital mutilation remains a prevalent risk for far too many women. This affliction affects women of varying ages across different tribes, regions and nations of Africa. The performance of female genital mutilation is a crime in Cameroon. Despite this, the country has not completely eliminated the practice, although women in Cameroon live in safer environments than most of their continental neighbors.

Rates of FGM in Cameroon

Female genital mutilation has a long history across different parts of the world, including Africa, Asia and Australia. Groups across these regions generally practice its application for sociocultural, sexual, possessive or coercive purposes. Its function remains a cruel blight upon the estimated 200 million people it afflicts and disfigures globally. Today, FGM most commonly exists across various African nations. Girls between the ages of 5 and 9 years old routinely experience the practice.

Yet, Cameroon’s FGM numbers are markedly better than its neighbors. This is especially impressive for a nation with approximately 27 million people with a median age of just under 19 years old. One reason for Cameroon’s lower FGM numbers in comparison with other nearby nations is that it has made efforts to diminish FGM since the 1980s. However, FGM is still a prevalent issue in Cameroon that requires attention.

The Persistence of FGM

Cameroon established the National Action Plan to combat FGM in 2011 and founded the Department for the Promotion and Protection of the Family and Children’s Rights in 2012. Meanwhile, it also instigated the 2016 passage of the civil, “Penal Codes of the Republic of Cameroon.” However, neither mandate nor legislation exists to truly stop the practice of FGM. Non-governmental organizations, international pressure and awareness campaigns, as well as natural human development, have driven initiatives against FGM.

The practice remains accepted in specific cultures and regions. FGM is generally more popular in the southwest of Cameroon within tribes such as the Ejagham community or particular Muslim groups like the Fulbe, Haoussas and Arapshouas in the north. Surveys have shown that up to 20% of women in the most affected communities have experienced FGM, and 85% of FGM in Cameroon is Type I or Type II. This is improved from the country’s rates in the mid-1990s, which were closer to 40% of women. Meanwhile, surveys estimate that only about 1% of the national population now suffers the burden of this practice, which is similar to the estimated percentage roughly 20 years ago.

The Resurgence of FGM in Cameroon

While the fight against FGM continues, the COVID-19 crisis, civil conflicts, economic downturn and resource scarcity-related issues have hindered efforts to decrease FGM. In addition, cultural superstitions and dogma have proven to be rigid obstacles in the campaign to end FGM. Warning of these hurdles, 100 young women traveled to Yaounde in late January and early February 2021 to discuss the COVID-19 related resurgence of FGM. The people of the city and international human rights advocates were quick to listen to these women’s stories. Kousseri, a city to the north, is a barometer for this. It has recently witnessed an increased 8% of women who have suffered from some form of genital mutilation. As work and capital have been difficult to come by during the pandemic, some blame these economic conditions as severely as cultural ones for the national and regional increases in FGM.

Organizations Fighting to Eliminate FGM in Cameroon

While the United Nations and various humanitarian organizations are continuing to make an impact, there is still room for improvement. Long-time Cameroonian President Paul Biya and his government must continue to receive pressure to officially define, illegalize and constitutionally denounce FGM. Groups like the Orchid Project have been fighting the practice of FGM, while actively working to educate, donate and promote legislative innovations. Additionally, No Peace Without Justice  formed in 1993 to combat various international atrocities, including this type of violence against women.

The Orchid Project secured the first-ever governmental commitment to end FGM globally from the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development, while No Peace Without Justice founded the Ban Female Genital Mutilation Campaign. This campaign successfully pushed for the U.N. to adopt Resolution 67/146 on Dec. 20, 2012, to increase global efforts to end FGM. This work has been critical in uniting and catalyzing different nations and peoples toward action and empathy and has pushed the U.N. for ever-increasing global action against this violence.

Cameroon has made progress regarding female genital mutilation over previous years, yet much of it has stagnated in recent years. Despite the negative impact of COVID-19, the nation is continuing to fight for progress. In order for Cameroon to reach its full potential, all of its citizens will have to receive equal respect, appreciation, love and empathy. This is what ending female genital mutilation in Cameroon will achieve. Only then will Cameroon be able to function as it should domestically and within the international community.

– Trent R Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Separatists in Cameroon
Cameroon is located in Central Africa, bordered by Nigeria. The southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon are Anglophone, while the rest of the country is Francophone. This split in language has been a source of conflict for separatists in Cameroon. Politically, the ruling party within the country is the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement. The party holds 152 of the 180 seats in the National Assembly. In Congress, CPDM rules more than 81% of the Senate. Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, is serving his seventh term since 1982.

Poverty in Cameroon

The poverty rate in Cameroon increased by 12% between 2007 and 2014. A total of 8.1 million people lived in poverty in 2014, with about 56% residing within the country’s northern regions. The Central African Economic and Monetary Community reports Cameroon as having the largest economy within the area that is experiencing an economic crisis. In April 2017, the World Bank’s Country Economic Memorandum stated that Cameroon would become an “upper-middle-income” country by 2035.

Who Are the Separatists?

Separatists in Cameroon are a group in the north Anglophone regions. They aggressively seek independence against Cameroon’s security forces. Starting in September 2017, this fight has progressively displaced more than 500,000 people and killed nearly 400 civilians and more than 200 military and police officers. In March 2019, the U.N. Refugee Agency claimed that 32,602 Cameroonian refugees reside in Nigeria. Of these refugees, 51% are children and 53% are women.

Separatists in Cameroon have kidnapped and killed children at school. In November 2019, the U.N. Children’s Fund found that 855,000 students were not going to school in English-speaking regions. About 90% of primary schools and 77% of secondary schools run by the state were dysfunctional or shut down.

Open to Communication

Currently, the separatist movement has left about 800,000 people homeless and 3 million lives uprooted. COVID-19 increased those numbers, and separatists in Cameroon have recently been fighting for mutual peace through this pandemic. Even though President Biya disapproves of separatists, as he considers them terrorists, a small pro-talks group led by intelligence chief Maxime Eko Eko and Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute has tried to communicate with separatist leaders.

In April 2020, a man named Sisiku Julius AyukTabe, a separatist who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, agreed to talk with Cameroon’s government to explore ways to end the conflict. The meeting occurred his prison cell and accomplished an agreement of understanding. The terms of the agreement are to keep security forces within separatist barracks, to release all prisoners and to always have a third party mediating future discussions between separatists and the Cameroonian government.

The separatist group in Cameroon formed during World War I and started taking greater action against the Cameroonian government in 2017. With the rate of poverty in Cameroon increasing due to COVID-19, the separatists and the government have tried to find common ground in their conflict. With advocates on both sides coming together to communicate with each other, there is greater hope for a peaceful future for both parties.

Libby Keefe
Photo: Flickr

Human Trafficking in Cameroon
The U.S. Department of State placed the Republic of Cameroon on the Tier 2 Watch List because it is making efforts to eliminate trafficking and protect individuals, but has not fully met the standards that the U.S. Department of State has set. Up to the present, Cameroon has made progress by convicting more traffickers, identifying and referring victims of trafficking to services, and providing repatriation assistance for foreign trafficking victims. Obstacles including terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram have increased the difficulty for nations such as Cameroon to address human trafficking as they contribute to the issue. Here are five facts to know about human trafficking in Cameroon.

5 Facts About Human Trafficking in Cameroon

  1. The Trafficking of Children Remains an Issue: Human trafficking in Cameroon involves children. Through the Ministry of Social Affairs (MINAS), Cameroon was able to identify 1,147 street children vulnerable to trafficking in 2019 in comparison to the 877 children in 2018. Child trafficking victims often work on agricultural plantations where they do not receive compensation. According to a study done in 2012 that the Cameroonian government partially prepared, between 600,000 and 3 million children were victims of human trafficking. These children often must travel vast distances, forever experiencing separation from their families. Many times, when the children become old enough to resist coercion, traffickers deport them out of Cameroon.
  2. The Government has Increased its Efforts to Protect Victims: In 2019, government officials in Cameroon identified 77 potential human trafficking victims, which is an increase from 2018 when they identified 62 potential human trafficking victims. The government, along with other private centers that receive funding from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to provide services for minors and vulnerable children who are at risk of becoming trafficking victims. All individuals including children who Cameroon’s government officials identified as human trafficking victims received care. These services offer food, shelter, vocational training, education, medical and psychological care and family tracing.
  3. Cameroon has Committed Itself to Addressing Boko Haram: Since 2014, Boko Haram has participated in transnational human trafficking across Western Africa, including in Cameroon. Throughout the past several years, Boko Haram has continued to target and traffic women and children within Cameroon. As Boko Haram threatens Cameroon and other neighboring states, Cameroon has committed itself to lead tireless combat against Boko Haram with no impunity for those responsible for the attacks. Specifically, Cameroon deployed two military operations in 2014 including Operation EMERGENCE 4 and Operation ALPHA to combat Boko Haram. Both operations continue to work towards fighting Boko Haram and eliminating transnational human trafficking.
  4. Funding Remains an Issue: The lack of funding within Cameroon continues to impede the government’s implementation of its anti-trafficking national action plan. No one knows the exact amount that currently goes toward Cameroon’s anti-trafficking national action plan and the amount of money necessary to properly implement it, as the government has not disclosed it to the public. Unfortunately, because funding has limitations within Cameroon, the country has cut many training programs that aim to educate law enforcement to detect situations of trafficking. The lack of funding limits the amount of research that the country can do with regards to human trafficking while also limiting the amount of aid and resources that it can provide to victims of human trafficking.
  5. Cameroon Maintains its Efforts to Prevent Human Trafficking: MINAS continues to inform Cameroonians about trafficking indicators through public awareness campaigns. In 2019, the government provided 2,864 informational sessions addressing human trafficking indicators and providing ways to help prevent human trafficking to Cameroonians. These 2019 informational sessions reached 397,447 individuals compared to only 69,000 in 2018. Law enforcement’s and immigration officials’ screening efforts within Cameroon’s international airports prevented several potential human trafficking victims from experiencing exploitation over the past several years.

Looking Ahead

To address human trafficking in Cameroon, the nation has made efforts to focus on families, recognizing how families can often play a role in facilitating trafficking. Many impoverished families often must sell children, especially girls, into trafficking and are unable to protect the children and women from becoming trafficking victims. With assistance from the United Nations, Cameroon has continued to work towards eliminating trafficking by aligning its laws and regulations with international law to ensure that the trafficking of persons undergoes criminalization. Working closely with NGOs as well as intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) such as The Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Cameroon hopes to eliminate human trafficking and continues to prioritize it as a primary issue.

Ariana Chin
Photo: Flickr

Child Homelessness in Cameroon
A violent civil crisis over regional separatism, known as the Anglophone Crisis or Cameroonian Civil War, has decimated the Central African nation of Cameroon since 2017. One of the most disheartening consequences of the conflict is the extreme number of homeless children. As of 2019, Cameroon had over 900,000 internally displaced people, 51% of whom were children. Child homelessness in Cameroon has been a serious problem for many years, but the government has redoubled its efforts to combat housing shortages and population displacement.

Street Children

Homeless or impermanently housed “street children” are a growing problem in the urban centers of many developing countries. In Cameroon, where about 37.5% of the population lives below the poverty line, street children have been a prominent humanitarian concern for years. The escalation of the Anglophone crisis has produced significant increases in the number of children fending for themselves on the streets of Cameroon’s cities. In the past 10 years, the number of street children increased from around 1,000 to over 10,000.

A study that researchers at the University of Kwa Zulu-Natal conducted found that most street children in Cameroon subsist on less than $0.85 USD per day. Many street children rely on begging, drug use and sex work to survive their harsh conditions. Less than 1% of the street children who the researchers surveyed considered the public’s attitude toward them to be supportive. These children are dangerously vulnerable, especially in active war zones. Conflict-induced devastation is one of the most significant causes of child homelessness in Cameroon.

Impact of COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit Cameroon, worsening conditions for all citizens but hitting street children especially hard. Urban centers are less sanitary and more harmful than ever before, something that the homeless and under-housed feel most keenly. Over 40,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have occurred in Cameroon and over 600 deaths.

Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated the worst impacts of the Anglophone Crisis. As the global health crisis distracted the international community, both the military and armed separatist groups enacted more violence on civilians. This behavior endangers civilians directly but also causes many to flee their homes out of fear for their safety, increasing the number of Cameroon’s homeless dramatically. This surge in displaced individuals also stretches Cameroon’s already thin resources even more direly, worsening conditions for those already homeless.

Though the pandemic has increased the instability of living conditions for those on the streets, it has also given Cameroon’s government a stronger incentive to house street children, accelerating existing plans to provide housing to those who violence or poverty have displaced.

Initiatives to House Street Children

Cameroon’s Ministry of Social Affairs is partnering with the Ministry of Health to house and support thousands of street children while screening them for COVID-19 in the process. It began clearing the streets in April 2020, with plans to find housing for 3,000 street children in the near future.

The children will either return to their families or enter housing or job training programs to develop skills like cooking and sewing. Regardless of their specifics, this program will provide shelter, safety and opportunities to thousands of street children. This initiative will house not only displaced or abandoned children but also orphans and children who are seeking asylum from nearby countries.

Street Child, a U.K. charity, is also working in Cameroon to help provide protection and education for homeless children. The organization emerged in 2008 and operates by partnering with local organizations in areas with high rates of child homelessness to make education more accessible. Street Child has helped over 330,000 children go to school. Now the initiative is working with local organizations and the Cameroonian government to help provide COVID-19 relief, and developing specific programs to improve the wellbeing of children who the conflict has directly affected. Street Child focuses on expanding access to education and alleviating the symptoms of child homelessness in Cameroon.

– Samantha Silveira
Photo: Flickr

Female Cacao Farmers in Cameroon
Cameroon is a country rich in natural resources and agricultural products such as coffee, cassava and cacao. This nation is the fifth-largest cacao producer in the world. The industry is a vital source of economic activity for small-scale rural farmers and contributes to about 1.2% of the country’s total GDP. However, female cacao farmers in Cameroon struggle to benefit from this industry.

The Gender Inequality Index ranks Cameroon 141 of 189. Expectations have determined that women must take care of daily chores such as cooking and fetching water. On average, women spend 8.2 more hours completing unpaid household tasks than men. Cacao fields are typically family-run enterprises. Thus, women often work in these fields as well. Cacao farming particularly affects women because it does not generate a lot of income.

Cameroon’s Cacao Industry

Cameroon liberalized its cacao industry in hopes of recovering from the economic crisis in the 1980s. At this time, the value of the national currency fell significantly after global oil prices fell.

Consequently, the industry swiftly deregulated. The regulatory branch of Cameroon overseeing cacao production and quality control lost its influence without government support. As a result, this lead to corruption of local middlemen, a lack of accurate information on cacao production and fluctuations in the quality of produced cacao. Only 10% of Cameroon’s cacao producers belonged to producer associations by 2002. Thus, Cameroon continues to struggle to compete in the world market.

Female Cacao Farmers in Cameroon

Female cacao farmers in Cameroon face additional challenges to the already competitive market due to the patriarchal society. Cacao production grew from 123,000 tons in 2000 to 290,000 in 2016. However, the quality of cacao decreased due to a lack of quality control in pre and post-harvest activities.

Men and women conduct different tasks in cacao production. Men take on physically demanding and dangerous tasks such as pesticide spraying and harvesting. Women focus on post-harvest activities fundamental to the quality of cacao such as pod-breaking, fermenting and drying.

Although labor is equally distributed, female cacao farmers in Cameroon often do not benefit from cacao revenue because they do not own the land. About 3% of women own a house without a property title and 1.6% own a property title in their name. This means men in households keep the profit that the cacao generates.

Furthermore, women lack representation in cacao production decision-making. In addition, women often do not have equal access to education. Men receive an average of 13 years of education, while women receive only 11 years. As a result, about 71.6% of women and 82% of men in Cameroon are literate. The lack of education hinders women’s ability to maintain financial independence.

Telcar

Telcar is one of Cameroon’s largest cacao trading companies. The International Finance Corporation installed cassava grinding machines in 10 cooperatives to help female cacao farmers in Cameroon. Many women supplement their income by selling manually-produced cassava starch to local markets. Kate Fotso grew up in a cocoa-producing village and is now managing director of Telcar. She installed cassava grinding machines to ease the laborious process, empower women and improve their economic status.

Female farmers in organized management committees learned how to use, maintain and pass knowledge about the machines to others. Additionally, Telcar recruited female farmers into financial literacy training programs and worked with micro-finance institutions to support women’s cassava enterprises. It increased their access to finance through saving and encouraged them to take on leadership roles within their cooperatives.

The Farmgate Cacao Alliance

The Farmgate Cocoa Alliance is a global nonprofit organization that focuses on achieving cacao sustainability in Cameroon. Women Empowerment Through Cacao Farming is its project that takes a holistic approach in supporting female farmers. The organization trains women to run professional and sustainable cacao farms. It allocated female community field agents to 50 women within the region to help identify group needs, challenges and lessons learned.

Furthermore, female farmers in Cameroon received encouragement to form cooperatives for better market access, more stable income and received 2 HA of land to combat a lack of access to farmland. Finally, the organization taught women advocacy skills to approach local and national governments concerning legal restrictions such as applying for land, financing and other assets and services.

SNV Netherlands Development Organization

SNV is a nonprofit from the Netherlands that focuses on empowering women through the cacao value chain. The Cameroon Golden Cacao Project aims to increase cooperatives and farmers’ income by implementing standardized post-harvest practices. The goal was to increase the production of high-quality cocoa by 10% by 2020.

Cooperatives and partners created more than 400 jobs for women. In addition, 500 of the 2,000 cooperative members who practice standardized knowledge were women by 2020. Women continue to increase their involvement at the post-harvest stages of the cacao value chain. In the future, women will develop other income generations and business models to find relevant financial partners.

Although female cacao farmers in Cameroon face many difficulties, organizations’ initiatives are already improving the lives of these workers. Providing educational opportunities will empower women and improve cacao production and the economy.

– Charlotte Ehlers
Photo: Flickr

Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon
Since November 2016, the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon has been ongoing, which is an issue that links to its population’s identity. A section of the English-speaking minority population of the country, originally from the northwest and southwest regions of the country, is protesting against the current government. Their claims mostly focus on the marginalization of the English language, the lack of access to English education, the common law system and even jobs for native anglophone Cameroonians. The conflict started with a peaceful protest from anglophone lawyers and teachers and escalated with the emergence of an anglophone separatist movement. As the situation remains tense, the attention of the international community is necessary.

The State of Affairs

Beyond the language and identity claims, this conflict collides with other threats, such as Boko Haram, that have significantly weakened the economy of the country, especially in the northwest and southwest regions. In 2018, the National Organization of Employers, Gicam, reported that about 45% of the cocoa produced in the country is in the southwest, and 75% of Cameroonian arabica coffee comes from the northwest. Export earnings from these two commodities have fallen by 20% due to the conflict in the English-speaking area, where a fifth of the total population lives. Moreover, an increase in unemployment and the shutting down of businesses has occurred. Human Rights Watch estimates nearly 300 Cameroonians have died since January 2020 in regions of concern, and over 1 million have experienced internal displacement. In such a context, foreign aid could be particularly beneficial, but things are not that simple.

The Challenges of Foreign Aid

Through time, Cameroon has received foreign aid from countries and institutions such as France, the United States and the World Bank. In September 2020, Cameroonian Foreign Minister Lejeune Mbella Mbella asked for increased international cooperation in support of the country’s ongoing struggle against “terrorism.” Moreover, the UN OCHA has launched a Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) that identified 3.9 million people in need. Estimates determined that the initiative would provide $320.7 million USD.

Despite some previous successes of foreign aid programs in Cameroon, challenges remain, especially in the context of the current Anglophone Crisis. Firstly, aid and humanitarian workers are highly at risk, which slows down their work. In January 2020, pro-independence fighters kidnapped seven aid workers from the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation and the COMINSUD. Although they later released all staff, the abductions resulted in several organizations restricting their area of operations.

Secondly, cooperation with the government tends to be difficult sometimes. Indeed, Cameroonian authorities have publicly charged NGOs such as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the Think Tank International Crisis Group – among other organizations – of working to “destabilize state institutions.” Resistance also comes over concerns of aid distribution, as Cameroon ranks 152 out of 180 countries in the 2018 Transparency International corruption perceptions index, and it ranks 166 out of 190 economies in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 report.

Good News and Solutions

Despite remaining challenges and perceptions, foreign aid has had some success in Cameroon in the past, which keeps some humanitarian workers optimistic, even during the Anglophone Crisis. Indeed, the poverty rate has dropped from 53% in 1996 to 37.5% in 2014. As many organizations continue to provide humanitarian aid to Cameroon, some experts remain optimistic that the living conditions of Cameroonians will continue to improve. The work of state and nonprofit actors continues to reap positive results, though the improvements cannot always occur easily. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is one of the organizations providing support to the country.

To improve these good results, it appears important to address the different obstacles to the redistribution of foreign aid in Cameroon. For this purpose, both the state and civil society level initiate actions. Indeed, at the civil society level, international organizations such as the World Bank have developed a performance-based system – Country Policy and institutional Assessment – that allows the institution to evaluate the qualification of a country to receive aid while reducing the risks of corruption.

This kind of mechanism can be a standard for international NGOs providing financial assistance to Cameroon. At the state level, the Cameroonian government has made another step towards its decentralization process. Indeed, regional advisors have undergone recent election. Their role is to foster the development of their localities while remaining accountable to the people. These new authorities can increase transparency and can use their knowledge of the local dynamics to help humanitarian workers in the distribution of aid.

Jules Sombaye
Photo: Flickr

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