Poverty in Cameroon
A recent trend in propositions to combat poverty in Cameroon has been to create more technical schools and training programs that will tailor education to more specific job fields. By so doing, recent graduates may find work as soon as they finish their education.

Like many African nations, Cameroon has a considerable number of natural resources and an untapped population of over 23 million people. The stagnation of economic potential has contributed heavily to increasing levels of national poverty in Cameroon.

Cameroon’s youth demographic consists of half of the population, thus representing a growing labor force that is a potential asset to the global market. However, the nation’s tertiary education system continues to emphasize traditional academic disciplines, leaving students unprepared to respond to economic change.

About 43 percent of Cameroon’s population has an incomplete or no formal education, and 67 percent of the working-age population has received no additional training at all. Unemployment is vastly higher among youth as compared to older demographics across all levels and types of education.

According to Cameroon’s Growth and Employment Strategic Paper, the government has proposed an investment program that essentially states the government will work closely with private industries that have the potential for significant growth and job creation. Such areas include tourism, communication technologies and infrastructure. Investments like these will hopefully boost the impact of human resources on the development of these industries’ productivity.

However, only so much can be done with the current number of schools in Cameroon. There are only two engineering and technology universities and two agriculture universities located in Buea (South West Cameroon) and Dschang (Western Cameroon).

This lack of availability of educational facilities not only hurts the economy, it is also detrimental to the nation’s healthcare system. The disease is a high contributor to death and poverty in Cameroon. In 2013, more than 10,000 people were diagnosed with malaria in the town of Maroua alone. Local newspapers estimated that about 1,000 people died as a result of the disease.

Furthermore, it is estimated there are two doctors for every 10,000 people in Cameroon. Many medical cases are handled by individuals who have inadequate medical training. With such a shortage of medical professionals, the accessibility of a medical education is prudent to maintaining and increasing economic development, which will help alleviate poverty in Cameroon.

Adequate funding is lacking to improve the healthcare situation, wherein 2014 there were an estimated 657,000 people with HIV/AIDS.

Cameroon has great potential; however, poverty still affects 40 percent of the population. Cameroon is looking to improve the status quo by creating more engineering, technology and medical schools to help future generations escape the cycle of poverty.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr

malaria no more
Every 60 seconds, a child dies from a preventable and curable disease that claims the lives of 453,000 children per year—90 percent of those in Africa.

Malaria is considered one of the top three causes of death for children worldwide. But there’s one nonprofit that’s taking on the challenge to slow down the clock and lower its global threat to about half the world at risk. Malaria No More is dedicated to bringing an end to malaria deaths by engaging leaders, rallying the public and delivering lifesaving tools and education to families across Africa.

With the rate of 13,000 children losing their lives to a mosquito bite everyday, it is a critical time for this nonprofit to do its work efficiently and effectively. They do this through two sectors: lifesaving commodities and health education.

Malaria No More has covered over five million people with mosquito nets in at least 17 African countries, which to date is the surest way to prevent malaria. In Senegal, the organization conducted the first universal coverage of mosquito net distribution. In Cameroon, they inspired over 500,000 people to sleep under mosquito nets with their education campaign.

In the Fall of 2013, Malaria No More launched a campaign to deploy rapid diagnostic tests and artemisinin-based combination treatments to reduce malaria deaths in children. Rapid-diagnostic tests help expand the world’s ability to confirm malaria cases in remote settings and ensure that people get the right treatment where they need it. Likewise, artemisinin-based combination therapies act as a powerful treatment for malaria with a full course costing just one dollar to buy and deliver, curing a child one to three days time.

In addition to these lifesaving commodities, Malaria No More offers health education, which plays a vital role to preventing, diagnosing and treating the disease. For example, their NightWatch initiative has reached at least 20 million Africans by engaging mobile platforms and African leaders, from international music icons to local sports heroes, to deliver lifesaving health education.

Malaria No More works on the ground to make sure that every family in Africa has timely access to the resources they need, whether it’s providing mosquito nets to sleep under at night or the one dollar full-course treatment.

Other solutions the nonprofit suggests include indoor residual spraying to help kill mosquitoes and reduce the rate of malaria transmission in addition to the development of more vaccines for malaria and support via government funding.

Though foreign aid represents less than one percent of the U.S. federal budget, all efforts make an impact on the ground. Bridging the current funding gap and helping countries deliver lifesaving resources will help bring down the rate of malaria deaths. Since 2000, malaria mortality rates have fallen about 60 percent among children under the age of five, but there’s still much more work to do.

Thanks to technology behemoth Google, Malaria No More is closer to reaching their goals. In December 2014, Google made a huge move toward fighting against malaria by announcing a $600,000 grant to help fund a mobile phone project to combat the disease.

So how does it work? Since many Africans communicate via mobile phones, there’s no better way to collect data and send them vital information that details preventative measures that can save those in targeted areas from one of the most deadly diseases. Malaria No More will partner with a Nigerian startup called Sproxil, which helps fight the counterfeit drug market by putting codes on authentic medicines. Anyone who purchases these can now text the codes to verify the drugs.

In addition, texting codes allows Malaria No More to receive data on what drugs people are taking in remote areas as well as track the spread and treatments for the disease.

– Chelsee Yee

Sources: Malaria No More, Geek Wire, Fighting Malaria
Photo: Malaria No More

Despite Cameroon having one of the better economies in sub-Saharan Africa, the country faces a relatively flat per capita income of $1,270 dollars annually with a 39 percent national poverty rate. In rural areas, slightly more than half of the population has access to clean water, leaving 48 percent of the rural population without vital resources. Contributing factors to Cameroon‘s poverty include corruption, economic disparity and an unstable business climate.

Omer Maledy Gaetan, executive secretary of the Council for the Cocoa and Coffee in Cameroon explains, “Cameroon used to be one of the biggest coffee producers in the world.” Coffee is important to Cameroon’s economic success as it comprises six percent of the country’s gross national product and provides a living for approximately 400,000 farmers. Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Essimi Menye notes that “coffee remains a key crop that could contribute to Cameroon’s planned development by 2035.”

Starting in 1990, Cameroon began working with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank in reform efforts, spanning from attracting business investment to increasing the productivity of its agricultural industry. However, these efforts have not stopped the decline of the coffee industry.

In recent years, Cameroon’s coffee production has continuously declined and in 2013 production fell by 56 percent from the previous year. This translates to a decrease of an estimated 21,000 tons of coffee in one year. Furthermore, Cameroon’s harvest in 2012 was one-third of its 140,000 ton harvest in 1986.

Gaetan explains, “Our coffee is currently in very bad shape, [the 2013 yield is] the lowest figure we’ve known since Cameroon started growing coffee in 1957. And yet, we’ve known prosperous years. In 1990, we exported 156,000 tons.” But why is the industry declining at a continuous and recently rapid pace?

Following the Cameroon government’s decision during the 1990s to do away with the agriculture sector’s subsidies and economic protections, the prices of inputs such as fertilizers rose quickly. Coffee Farmer Isaah Mounde Nsangou explained, “Without fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides and sprayers, it was hard for many farmers to sustain their farms.” The liberal reforms led to other unpredictable costs for farmers, like costs incurred from lack of infrastructure maintenance.

Gaetan explains, “In 1980, we were ranked the 8th world coffee producer. In 1992, when we liberalized the sector, Cameroon was ranked 12th in the world. Today, we are ranked as 30.” Despite the decline of the industry, Cameroon is looking to boost its productivity in response to increased worldwide demand for coffee, which has risen by three percent every year. The CICC has begun a project called New Generation, which is working to engage the youth in the coffee industry.

The CICC will also be disbursing approximately 1.5 million dollars through assistance programs over the next five years in order to stop plummeting harvests. This past February, the European Union signed a 30 million euro contract, which aims to revitalize the coffee sector during the next six years by offering various forms of support to farmers. Farmers have proposed restarting abandoned farms and improving upon commercial delivery, networking and product quality. Other objectives include the creation of an additional 3,600 hectares of coffee plantations over the upcoming six years.

In a country like Cameroon where rural poverty is still an issue, investment in the agriculture sector will provide opportunities for many farmers to escape poverty. The strategies at play, from getting the youth involved to investing in support programs and new plantations, are promising. The potential for growth is present, and it seems Cameroon’s farmers are more than willing to seize the opportunity.

Christopher Kolezynski

Sources: Global Issues, VOA News, CIA, World Bank
Photo: RecorderLine

solar power in Cameroon
On June 2, Joule Africa announced a $200 million investment plan to develop solar power in Cameroon.

This announcement comes on the heels of another successful agreement between Joule and the Cameroonian government: the building of a hydroelectric plant on the Katsina Ala river. This project alone is expected to raise the country’s capacity to generate power by 40 percent, an increase of 450 megawatts.

Cameroon has the second largest hydroelectric potential in Africa. While working to harness more of this potential, the government of Cameroon is looking toward complimentary sources of energy. Predicting dry spells and rain shortages during hot summer months, they have turned to solar power.

The new deal with Joule Africa, set to supply an additional 100 megawatts of power, marks a confidence in the nation’s growth that is sorely needed. For the time being, there is little information on the accessibility of electricity in Cameroon, but some reports estimate that less than 20 percent of the population has a reliable power source.

It is hoped that higher outputs of energy, in tandem with the building of energy grids and roads, will reach a greater number of Cameroonians, though for many, it is first and foremost a development strategy upon which hinges economic growth. President Paul Biya has expressed his desire for Cameroon to achieve emerging market status by 2035. One of the avenues to this end goal is the improvement of energy infrastructure, and indeed, Cameroon’s energy needs are expected to triple by 2020.

Joule Africa is now working with a partner-engineering firm, Bethel Industrievertretung, and the government to determine five sites suitable for solar power facilities in Cameroon. The project will increase Cameroon’s capacity to generate energy by 15 percent. It will be constructed in two phases; the first stage being completed in 2015, and the second by 2017.

– Olivia Kostreva

Sources: Joule Africa, EBR, IT News Africa, Heifer International
Photo: IPS

Poliovirus Spreads to Equatorial Guinea
The Polio Global Eradication Initiative announced that “a new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case was reported in Equatorial Guinea” on April 16 2014.  The country has reported three known cases and due to the genetic sequencing of the virus, health officials believe the virus spread from neighboring country, Cameroon.

This poliovirus outbreak contradicts Equatorial Guinea’s statistics in previous years. The UNICEF Annual Report 2012 for Guinea Bissau declared, “Guinea Bissau has been “polio-free” since 2009…due to vaccination campaigns through child health days and strengthened routine immunization.” According to NPR’s article “Polio Hits Equatorial Guinea, Threatens Central Africa” report, however, the country currently has a vaccination rate of only 39 percent, suggesting that routine immunization programs have decreased since 2009.

Similarly, in Cameroon, the origin of this outbreak, the World Health Organization calculated that 40 percent of children are inadequately vaccinated against the poliovirus. Immunization prevents the spread of the poliovirus, which is an infectious disease with no cure that can cause permanent paralysis. It is communicable via person-to-person contact. Children under the age of 5 are especially susceptible to contracting the virus, making proper immunization campaigns are essential to elimination of an outbreak.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), from January 2014 to April 2014 ten countries reported a total of 61 polio cases.  When an outbreak of the poliovirus began in Cameroon in October 2013, the country conducted immunization campaigns in response. On March 17 2014, however, Cameroon confirmed new cases of the poliovirus.  In the WHO’s “Poliovirus in Cameroon update”, the WHO elevated “the risk assessment of international spread of polio from Cameroon to very high.” Despite the organization’s attempt to contain the outbreak, the poliovirus spread to Equatorial Guinea.

In an April 24, 2014 UNICEF news note, UNICEF Representative in Equatorial Guinea, Dr. Brandão Có, stated, “Stopping the transmission of polio in Equatorial Guinea is a key priority in order to ensure children, families and communities are protected against this terrible and crippling disease that also has enormous social costs.” UNICEF also reported that a campaign to vaccinate 300,000 children against the virus commenced on April 24, 2014.

— Jaclyn Ambrecht

Sources: NPR, Polio Global Eradication Initiative,, UNICEF(1), UNICEF(2), World Health Organization

Bijoko Atangana, the secretary general of Cameroon’s Medical Council, called attention to the immense number of doctors working illegally in the country. The government explained that 600 illegal hospitals and health centers have recently been identified, those of which who are not abiding by government specifications are also being closed down. Atangana further described how easy it is to pinpoint doctors with fake licenses since they are not working under the National Medical Council.

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) presented information on the use of counterfeit drugs used within illegal hospitals, drugs which are suspected of leading to over 200,000 deaths worldwide each year. Cases involving blood transfusion infections, counterfeit malaria, antibiotics and tuberculosis drugs have left patients either severely ill or dead, especially in Cameroon. The lack of medical staff due to the crackdown on hospitals is also proving to be an issue as patients wait hours with nobody to help them.

Cameroon’s Health Ministry is working hard to close down illegal hospitals and enforce laws to save lives. The WHO has also been actively working for decades to stop counterfeit drug networks. They have, since 2009, closed down several retail outlets, 100 of which were in China. They have also been involved in aiding countries create detection systems and develop high-tech drug packaging to avoid easy drug replication. Developing countries such as Cameroon are easy targets for illegal pharmaceuticals and clinics due to the cheap price of medications while the necessity of medical practitioners are in high demand.

Maybelline Martez 

Sources: Voice of America, World Health Organization

A growing number of children in Cameroon are falling victim to malnutrition. A hospital in Garoua confirmed that in June alone, thirty-one cases of childhood malnutrition came through and six died.

Cameroon conducted a study in 2011 to gauge malnutrition levels within in the country. The study found that of children under five years old, thirty three percent of them suffered from chronic malnutrition and fourteen percent of them were severely malnourished.

There are several theories as to why Cameroon experiences such high malnutrition rates. Cameroon’s ministry of public health believes that malnutrition is linked to Cameroon’s complex climate. They cite certain regions with dry, semi-arid climates having higher rates of nutritional deterioration in children than in other regions. Additionally, it is believed that the influx of refugees from Chad and the Central African Republic has added an increased strain to Cameroon.

The northern and far northern regions of Cameroon experience the highest rates of childhood malnutrition. Unfortunately, however, malnutrition exists throughout the entire country and not just in the north. This is believed to be due to the lack of food in certain seasons, and in certain regions as previously explained. Cameroon also has a lack of food variety, creating a deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals in many children’s diets.

However, Cameroon’s problem is not food insecurity. The country is capable and does produce enough food to sustain its population, and does not need to import food. Unfortunately, however, poverty is a severe roadblock to battling malnutrition. Poverty keeps a large portion of Cameroon from having access to a varied and balanced diet.

UNICEF has estimated that 57,616 children under the age of five are at risk of severe acute malnutrition in the North and Far North regions of Cameroon. Additionally, UNICEF believes 145,000 children under the age of five will experience stunted growth. Very few children in Cameroon are breastfed after birth, which leads to such inflated statistics.

UNICEF has partnered with the government of Cameroon to increase prevention efforts. They have increased their presence at nineteen feeding centers in the country to prevent complications associated with malnutrition. They are working to educate mothers to recognize the signs of malnutrition and to seek medical help when they are noticed. Despite limited medical staff in many regions in Cameroon, it is hoped that the increased effort in prevention programs will work to effectively decrease malnutrition and death rates in the country.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: Inter Press Service, All Africa
Photo: Healthcare Volunteer

Widows Rights Limited in Cameroon

Widows’ rights have been an issue for centuries, but, with the advent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the cause for concern has grown exponentially.

In Cameroon, when a woman’s husband dies, all of his belongings go directly to his surviving family regardless, of whether he had children. This is because women and children are regarded as property and therefore cannot inherit it, this practice leaves many women struggling to raise children after having been stripped of assets that they feel are rightfully theirs. Furthermore, many are forced to take part in mourning rituals that can last years.

One woman, who is now an advocate for the program, states, “I would get up in the morning and sit with those who came to mourn with me. I could not go out, I could not attend church. It was like you were not your own person.” Joseph Nij, a retired police officer, also told of the hardships he saw some widows face. “They had ­widows isolated and barefoot,” he said. “Some of them were told not to wear clothes, and could only eat from a separate dish.”

Another woman was forced to urinate in front of a large crowd to prove she had no part in her husband’s death. Other injustices include forcing the widow to have sexual relations with her male in-laws, making her lie next to her husband’s corpse for up to three days, forcing her to remarry or prohibiting her from marrying again, and required displays of public nudity.

The rationale for such behavior is almost as shocking as the abuse itself. A report by Pingpoh Margaret Hongwe from the Cameroon Association of University Women (CAMAUW) reads, “Hardly is any death considered natural. Most deaths are attributed to witchcraft and the power of witchcraft is very often attributed to women. When a man dies, society quickly accuses the wife. The ill-treatment of the widow is considered a punishment, a test of fidelity and a cleansing exercise.”

In Cameroon, one young student is looking to turn things around. Sundze Mamah Natari, known as “Mallam,” is the president of the Muslim Students’ Association of Bamenda (MUSAB), and is working with the fons, or kings, of different regions within the country. He believes that because some of the younger fons have been university-educated, they may be able to approach this issue with an open mind. Noting that change will not happen overnight, Mallam adds, “Some of these traditions have lasted more than 500 years. This project is very sensitive.”

Fortunately, some are starting to pay attention to the issue. This year on June 23rd marked the first International Widows’ Day, which was started by the United Nations to raise awareness on the rights of widows around the world.

– Samantha Mauney

Sources: Mail & Guardian, Widows’ Rights, All Africa
Photo: Flickr

Mobile Phone Consumers Poor
Developing nations have become the mobile phone industry’s biggest new consumer. Some of the poorest countries in Africa have seen a meteoric rise in cell phone use in recent years. Since the invention, cell phones have enabled users to connect across geographic boundaries in ways that were impossible before. Additionally, cell phones are now used in developing for monetary exchanges that have fueled growth.

A vast majority of the population in Africa do not have bank accounts. Instead, their populations are increasingly reliant on “mobile money”, often in the form of pre-paid airtime minutes. Mobile handsets can be acquired at a relatively cheap price and they allow their users to make financial transactions in a way that is independent of inflation or economic stability. Airtime can be transferred between handsets or converted to cash by airtime dealers.

In Botswana, approximately 30% of the population over the age of 16 have a bank account, however nearly 60% have mobile phones. In Cameroon, the difference is even greater, with 7.1% with bank accounts and 36.5% operating mobile phones.

This pattern continues across much of the African continent. The airtime economy offers monetary independence for Africans living on minuscule incomes. Though the cost of entry still prevents the poorest communities from entering the market, handset manufacturers have taken notice of these emerging markets and are developing cheaper, more rugged handsets for poorer communities.

– Andrew Rasner 
Source: The Economist, TechCrunch, IST Africa
Photo: Smart Mobile Solutions