Healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa has a direct impact on poverty in the region. When adults are too ill to work, they and their children can quickly fall into extreme poverty, which leads to hunger and malnutrition. Around 46% of Africa’s population lives on less than $1 a day; an even larger proportion than was the case 15 years ago. Despite these challenges, organizations like Wild4Life are working to expand the reach of healthcare into these underserved communities.

Poverty and Health Care in sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the poorest region in the continent. Close to 60 million children under the age of 17 work instead of attending school in an effort to help their families rise out of poverty. Every fifth child is forced into child labor. This effectively means that when grown, that person will lack education and most likely remain in poverty. This social plight creates a vicious cycle in which chronic malnutrition, growth disorders and physical and mental underdevelopment occur. These health issues further limit an individual’s opportunity to earn a living later in life. In addition, 25 million Africans are infected with HIV, including almost 3 million children — the highest rate of infection in the world. Many of these children have lost one or both parents and are living on the streets.

Government expenditure on healthcare in Africa is very low; typically about $6 per person. This means that medical workers experience huge pressures, operating with little-to-no equipment or means to reach rural populations, Such challenges make healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa difficult to provide.

Good News about Health Care in Rural Communities

The good news is that organizations such as Wild4Life are working to reverse these disturbing healthcare trends. The NGO’s mission is to expand the reach of health services to underserved remote, rural communities in sub-Saharan Africa that have limited or no access to healthcare. To achieve this goal, Wild4Life has developed an incredibly innovative service delivery model. The aim of this model is to reach more people than previously would have been possible. Wild4Life works to establish the basic building blocks of a healthcare system. It believes that a well-functioning system has a lasting effect on a community’s overall health and longevity.

Expansion to Twelve African Countries

The Wild4Life model involves partnering with organizations that are already established in remote locations, and that have put together links with people in the local community. This approach leverages the existing infrastructure, social ties and knowledge bank in cooperation with Wild4Life’s network of health providers. This allows support and treatment to impact some of the hardest-to-reach people and places on earth.

Wild4Life began as an HIV/AIDS program in Zimbabwe, but it has expanded throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  Now operating in twelve countries — Botswana, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gabon, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe —the organization delivers extremely low-cost healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa and provides interventions that are scalable yet sustainable.

Community Partnerships to Improve Health Care

The goals of the NGO include assessing the needs of rural populations and targeting the health issues that most affect them. It also seeks to build clinics in remote areas; strengthen rural healthcare networks; provide quality healthcare and improve community partnerships so that creative ways to address problems become permanent solutions. For example, Wild4Life trains community leaders to mobilize local demands for healthcare services and advocate for quality care from clinic staff and maintain facilities. This results in significant infrastructure improvements. The NGO also organizes events around such topics as improving healthy behaviors and coming up with strategies for the best way to use clinic funds.

Five Clinics in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe alone, Wild4Life has a network of five clinics. These clinics have achieved remarkable results, including hundreds of lives saved by new diagnosis and treatment of HIV as well as other preventable diseases. The organization believes that there is not one single technology or innovation that will create a lasting impact on the health of people living in rural communities. Instead, it partners with all levels of the healthcare system to locate the gaps in the extant setup. By doing this, it hopes to leave behind a resilient, local healthcare system for those who need it most.

During comprehensive clinical mentoring, well-trained, multi-disciplinary teams composed of six specialists comprehensively mentor clinic staffs on primary care conditions. These conditions include HIV, TB, Integrated Management of Childhood Illness and testing for anemia. Such services also aid in labor and delivery. This process also covers monitoring and evaluation of data quality, pharmacy management and clinic management over a two-year period.

Scaling Up to Improve Healthcare in Africa

Wild4Life has significantly scaled up since its inception, through government, nonprofit and for-profit connections. It has gone from delivering care to remote areas, to building healthcare networks in rural populations. As a result of its expansion plan, 70,000 more people will have access to high-quality health services in their communities. By training clinicians and community members in the most up-to-date medical care delivery, the NGO is changing the way that rural healthcare in sub-Saharan Africa is delivered.

Sarah Betuel

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 Far North 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 rice production, pasturing and fishing.

The Far North is also the poorest region in Cameroon. 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 in northern Cameroon. The project lowers risk from annual flooding for over 100,000 people. As a result of the project,  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, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR). The project aims to build 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, demolished homes there and evicted people living in informal communities in those places. The danger with evicting people from these areas is that they lack the land titles needed to receive compensation for the demolition that would help pay for housing in low-risk flood areas.  As a result, some end up returning to high 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 has been responding to disasters. The organization was able to reach affected areas soon after the floods, only taking a few days. The Cameroon Red Cross 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. To understand the risk level for disaster

  2. To strengthen the governance of disaster risk in order to improve the management

  3. To invest in disaster preparedness for effective response

  4. To “Build Back Better” to recover, rehabilitate and reconstruct

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 still impact the livelihoods of people in high-risk areas, especially impacting poorer populations, the Cameroonian government and international organizations have instituted programs to reduce the impacts of flooding.

Melody Kazel
Photo: Flickr

Women's Empowerment in CameroonCameroon, like many countries around the world, has dealt with women’s inequality. There are several laws in Cameroon that are severely discriminatory towards women, and even after observations and suggestions made by the CEDAW Committee to the government of Cameroon in 2000 and 2009, there have been no legal reforms to improve the protection of women’s empowerment in Cameroon. To make matters worse, customary law is applied next to statutory law, which brings about many contradictions and inconsistencies.

There are many customs and traditions that impede the implementation of statutory laws. Many marriages are forced, especially in rural areas, where some girls as young as 12 are married. There is also the practice of levirate, where widows are forced to marry the brother of their deceased husband, a very common practice since widows are considered property. Furthermore, according to tradition, only male children can inherit property.

Domestic violence is prevalent and happens often while remaining socially acceptable. Unlike many other countries, marital rape is not considered a criminal offense. The government has not established shelters or legal aid clinics, and victims usually have to suffer in a culture of silence and impunity.

When it comes to education, the literacy rate for the 15-26 age group is 72 percent for males and 59 percent for females. This is due in part to families being more in favor of boys getting an education if they are unable to send all their children. Even though there are still fewer females than males in secondary school, there is slight progress. There have been some efforts made by the government to promote girls’ access to education. However, only so many girls have been able to benefit from the scholarship policy after already being affected by the lack of infrastructure, educational materials and a shortage of qualified teachers.

There are labor laws in place to honor gender equality and provide equal access to employment and equal wages for equal work, but women are still being employed in informal sectors like agriculture and household services. Sexual harassment in the workplace is common and is not punishable by law.

There are calls for the authorities of Cameroon to reform or repeal all discriminatory measures in statutory law; specifically, the provisions of the Family Code concerning the age of marriage, consent, polygamy, marital power and property. They need to take all necessary measures to improve women’s access to public and political life when it comes to decision-making positions, which include adopting special temporary measures such as a quota system and passing legislation criminalizing sexual harassment. Furthermore, there is an urgent need to improve women’s access to health care; in particular, developing healthcare infrastructure and intensifying the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The country has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women but has not ratified the protocol of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa. These changes would further encourage women’s empowerment in Cameroon.

The government of Cameroon must act and vigorously combat these issues so they can become things of the past. If the government does not make these changes and bring about equality, it will be seen as inadequate and paying lip service to the noble goal of gender equality. Women’s empowerment in Cameroon is the goal and it is up to the government to instill these laws and hold people accountable.

Chavez Spicer

Photo: Flickr

Why Is Cameroon PoorThe statistics say it all: with 40 percent of its 23.7 million individuals living below the poverty line, it is apparent that Cameroon suffers from financial difficulties. Since a range of factors can cause poverty, one might wonder: why is Cameroon poor? A lot of it has to do with Boko Haram, the militant Islamic group that originated in Nigeria.

Like most radical groups, Boko Haram thrives on insecurity. The militant Islamic group has been attacking Cameroon’s Far North Region. The Far North has some of the highest poverty rates in the country, as 56 percent of its poor live there. The people of the Far North are more vulnerable to Boko Haram due to the fact that they already live in poverty. In the past three years, the group has conducted 50 suicide attacks in the nation. While most people are fighting against Boko Haram, some Cameroonians have actually joined them.

There are other ways in which Boko Haram has negatively impacted Cameroon. As a result of the violence the group has committed in Nigeria, approximately 85,000 refugees have come to Cameroon for safety. Because of that, Cameroon is struggling even more economically, since there are more people in need of aid. There have even been accusations that Cameroon has forced refugees back into Nigeria, though Cameroonian Communications Minister Issa Tchiroma denied the allegation. In addition, Prime Minister Philemon Yang reported that there has been a drop in oil prices. The country’s financial situation has become such a serious issue that Yang has asked for international support.

Boko Haram has also contributed to the nation’s food insecurity. The Islamic militant group has forced farmers to abandon their farms and has stolen livestock. There is also increased food insecurity because of the large amount of refugees. 2.6 million Cameroonians are currently food insecure. United Nations officials believe that people in the Far North Region are at risk of famine.

Fortunately, the people of Cameroon are progressing in the fight against Boko Haram. Earlier this year, the country reported that it has been freeing a significant number of hostages. Cameroon also gets some assistance from the World Food Programme, which plans to provide 560,000 people with food this year. The organization mostly focuses on the people of the Far North Region, since food insecurity is most prevalent there.

“Why is Cameroon poor?” may be a broad question, but it can be explained by understanding the situation the country is currently in. Cameroon may be in a difficult position now, but is on the path to change and development.

Raven Rentas

Causes of Poverty in CameroonAs poverty rates across the globe continue to fall, urban centers continue to grow and people increasingly have access to education, Cameroon seems to be slipping in the wrong direction. Rural poverty, inadequate infrastructure and a struggling school system continue to hinder the lives of people across Cameroon, contributing to a rising poverty rate in the last 10 years.

Cameroon is a country of more than 23 million people. Out of the entire population, 24 percent of people live in poverty, and 55 percent of those in poverty live in rural communities.

Two causes of poverty in Cameroon and reasons for the gap between rural and urban poverty are a lack of infrastructure and an education system that fails to develop alongside shifting labor needs.

As the IMF noted in a 2014 survey, “the country’s infrastructure indicators trail those of regional peers. In spite of a slight improvement in the overall quality of infrastructure in 2013, indicators are low by sub-Saharan African standards, especially for roads, air transportation and electricity.”

This lack of infrastructure, which limits transportation, cuts off  those who live in rural areas. Rural citizens do not have access to fundamental resources and are marooned from diversified labor opportunities.

Furthermore, the education system has failed to develop alongside market demands. As the World Bank found, “the country’s tertiary education continues to focus on traditional academic disciplines and is not positioned to respond to economic transformation.”

In Cameroon, 43 percent of the population has little or no formal and primary education. What’s more, 67 percent of the population that is of working-age has received no further training in developing job sectors, leading to a significantly higher level of unemployment among youth–especially those living in rural areas.

This double-edged sword hits residents in the countryside. They have higher odds of living in poverty because of struggling infrastructure and inadequate educational opportunities. The country must address these issues to combat the causes of poverty and increasing poverty rates.

Indeed, steps are being taken. People are across the country are calling for performance-based financing for educational institutions to drive up competitiveness and quality of studies. Also, many organizations, including Heifer International, an organization that works to end global hunger and poverty, are working to increase jobs in rural areas. Regarding infrastructure, Cameroon recently launched a 10-year development plan focused on massive public investment in infrastructure, including roads.

By understanding the roles of infrastructure and education in the causes of poverty in Cameroon, the country may be able to improve living conditions for its impoverished people.

Joseph Dover

Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in CameroonThe coastal African nation of Cameroon is home to about 23.4 million people. The country has enjoyed developments in several areas, including agriculture, infrastructure and industries such as timber and petroleum. However, despite this growth, common diseases in Cameroon still take a toll on the citizenry.

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, HIV/AIDS is the current leading cause of death in Cameroon. Following this is malaria in second and lower respiratory infections in third. Lower respiratory infections is are most often diagnosed as pneumonia or bronchitis.

For those unfamiliar with these illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) contains a wealth of information. The CDC states that HIV/AIDS is a disease that weakens the immune system by attacking important cells. Though no cure exists as of today, it is preventable by avoiding contact with an infected individual’s blood or sexual fluids.

Lower respiratory infections are diseases of the lungs that are contracted by things like viruses, bacteria, and fungi. People affected by these infections will experience weakness, fever, coughing, shortness of breath, and fatigue.

Malaria is an illness that is obtained via mosquito bites and claimed the lives of 429,000 people in 2015, most of whom which were African children. Victims of this illness are affected by high fevers, chills and flu-like symptoms.

What’s notable about these three diseases is that they are all communicable; in other words, they are diseases that are contracted from person to person, or from animal to person. This means that these are diseases that can be prevented by taking precautionary actions, in most cases. In fact, seven out of the top ten causes of death are communicable, and nine out of ten in cases of premature death.

So, the common diseases in Cameroon that plague most of its population are contracted. This means that preventative measures can be taken. One example of a dramatic improvement in Cameroon’s health care comes from a very simple, yet relatively unheard of item: bed nets.

In short, bed nets are used to prevent mosquitoes from spreading malaria. Thanks to groups like One Billion Nets, malaria decreased tremendously. Back in 2005, malaria was the number one cause of death in Cameroon, but since fell to number two with a 55.8 percent drop.

According to One Billion Nets, millions of lives were saved thanks to bed nets and other sources of malaria intervention. This includes a 58 percent decline in the child mortality rate in Africa.

As just one example of the significant improvements made to Cameroonian and African health alike, this serves as a testament to why groups like The Borgen Project continue to keep aid for things like bed nets from being cut. With additional aid in the future, the rates of the common diseases in Cameroon are sure to fall in the future.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Cameroon
With 663 million individuals who lack access to clean water, it is apparent that the condition of water in many places around the world is very poor. Cameroon, a country located in Central Africa, is one of those places. However, water quality in Cameroon has improved in the last decade.

In both rural and urban areas, people suffer because of the poor water quality in Cameroon. In more rural areas, people walk great distances just to reach rivers. They do not only use rivers to gather water to drink but to bathe as well. These rivers are often contaminated with feces and a plethora of pathogens, making the water unsafe for both drinking and hygienic purposes.

In the capital city of Yaoundé, only 35 percent of the water needed for survival is distributed through pipes. That percentage is simply not enough to provide for an entire city. Individuals are then forced to travel to and navigate rural areas and search for rivers to collect water. Some of the people that live in cities possess a filter that can purify the water that they collect, but not everyone is that fortunate.

Drinking unsanitary water leads to diarrheal diseases, such as cholera. The World Health Organization reports that there are at least 1.3 million cholera cases yearly in Cameroon.

Although the poor water quality in Cameroon is a severe issue, efforts are being made to improve it. Individuals like Franck Eben Onambele, a Cameroon native, are making a difference. Onambele is a Cornell University alumnus and founder of the program One Summer, One Well, which focuses on building wells in Cameroon to provide potable water.

Besides Onambele’s work, there are also plans to use the Sanaga River for pipe-borne water. Utilizing the Sanaga River could nearly double the clean water supply for the people of Yaoundé.

Some efforts being made to better Cameroon’s water quality have proven to be successful. From the start to the end of the Millennium Development Goals, access to better water sources in the country increased by a total of 19 percent. While there has been an improvement in the water quality in Cameroon, much work is necessary for the future.

Raven A. Rentas

Photo: Flickr

With increasing conflict in neighboring countries, Cameroon must find a way to safely house its refugees and find a solution to the increasing food shortage. Here are 10 facts about refugees in Cameroon.

10 Facts About Refugees in Cameroon

  1. In July 2005, a law was created to reflect the Cameroonian tradition of taking in foreigners. This justified the migration of thousands of refugees into Cameroon, fleeing abuse and violence in their own countries. There are three categories for these: Central African refugees, Nigerian refugees, and internally displaced persons.
  2. Increasing violence in Nigeria and the Central African Republic by the insurgency Boko Haram threatens the refugees finding solace in Cameroon.
  3. Boko Haram started out as a Nigerian armed group but now operates to carry out attacks and kidnappings on refugees.
  4. In January, Cameroon faced a “refugee crisis.” They needed to continue helping refugees escape the terror of Boko Haram while protecting their own citizens. The terror has resulted in nearly 1.6 million displaced people in Cameroon, which could potentially increase to 2.7 million in the coming year.
  5. The U.N. estimated that Cameroon already has approximately half a million registered refugees, not including the 200,000 registered internally.
  6. With the huge influx of refugees in the past few months, the U.N. and the Cameroonian government are worried about an impending food shortage. To support everyone, refugees in Cameroon will need $310 million over the next three years.
  7. Cameroon’s refugee camp, Minawao, currently hosts 32,621 Nigerian refugees. This is an increase of 16,000 following recent clashes between the North Eastern Nigerian military and Boko Haram.
  8. As tensions increased on the border, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) discussed setting up a second refugee camp. Once the screening is complete, the camp will house nearly 66,000 refugees, of which 41,571 were verified by the UNHCR.
  9. Faced with a food shortage and increasing danger from Boko Haram, Cameroon began forcibly moving Nigerian refugees back home, around 2,600 people in total. Most of these refugees end up in camps for security reasons.
  10. To aid new refugees in Cameroon, UNICEF and its partners plan to help 58,000 children between five and six years old severely affected by acute malnutrition and 2,800 unaccompanied children. They also plan to provide approximately 145,000 children between ages 3-17 with quality formal or informal basic education in 2017.

Cameroon became a beacon of hope to neighboring countries. A beacon which now must rely on foreign aid to continue helping refugees and prevent a nationwide food shortage, while keeping its own citizens safe from the wrath of Boko Haram.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

The Republic of Cameroon, located in Central Africa, is one of the youngest and hungriest countries in the world. At just over 50 years old, Cameroon ranked 153 out of 188 on the 2015 Human Development Index and 68 out of 104 on the 2015 Global Hunger Index. Forty percent of the country’s nearly 24 million people live below the poverty line and 2.6 million are food insecure.

Programs Focus on Agriculture to Reduce Hunger

Over the past decade, more and more organizations have worked to reduce hunger in Cameroon. The Agricultural Competitiveness Project, launched in 2010, is one of these assistance programs. The organization’s goal is to boost Cameroon’s agriculture production by developing rural infrastructure facilities and investing in value chains for maize, rice and meat.

By June 2016, the Agricultural Competitiveness Project had raised rice crop yields by 16 percent, maize yields by 98 percent and plantain yields by 220 percent in targeted areas. The production of meat for consumption had significant increases as well – annual pig live weight had a 122 percent increase, poultry live weight increased by 257 percent and average annual egg production showed a 141 percent increase.

Since 1974, Heifer International has also been working in Cameroon, along with the Ministry of Livestock and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to help as much of the poor population as possible. Heifer has primarily focused on job creation in the dairy industry but has recently expanded to include other livestock species in its projects (which are located in six of Cameroon’s 10 regions).

Despite the influx of foreign aid and a public investment program by the government of Cameroon, financial stability is in question due to growing debt and low levels of private sector lead growth. The country has not seen the levels of progression that are necessary to sustain its people. From 2001 to 2014, poverty levels fell from 40.2 to 37.5 percent. Cameroon has been able to meet only one of the Millennium Development Goals, which was focused on primary school enrollment. Despite reduction efforts, hunger in Cameroon is still an issue that warrants direct attention. The programs set forth have shown obvious positive results in most cases, but progress in Cameroon should continue to grow with additional future endeavors.

Dustin Jayroe

Photo: Flickr

With highly-publicized diseases like the Zika virus present in Cameroon, it is easy to overlook risks posed by more common diseases. However, with the country lacking resources and proper healthcare, preventable or treatable diseases are common in Cameroon. Listed below are the top three deadliest diseases in Cameroon.


HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in Cameroon, accounting for 13.4 percent of deaths. Cameroon has one of the highest rates of HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa. Six new HIV infections occur every hour. While the number of infections in Cameroon has rapidly increased since the 1990s, recent efforts to combat the disease could help decrease the rate of infection. Subsequently, the government has launched initiatives to increase testing, encourage condom use, and bring better healthcare to regions with the highest rates of infection.

2. Lower Respiratory Infections

As one of the top diseases in Cameroon, lower respiratory infections kill about 29,000 people annually. That equates to 12.2 percent of deaths each year. These infections cause illnesses such as pneumonia and bronchitis. Lower respiratory infections are very common around the world and easily treated and prevented in most developing countries. However, a lack of adequate healthcare and awareness about prevention in Cameroon can make these infections deadly.

3. Diarrheal Diseases

Despite being easily prevented, diarrheal diseases still account for 14.4 percent of deaths in Cameroon. Diarrheal diseases disproportionately affect people living in poverty and in developing countries, where poor environmental sanitation and inadequate water supplies are more common. Although easily treatable, diarrheal diseases remain a top killer in the country. Simple interventions such as vaccines, oral rehydration tablets, and education initiatives about sanitation, could make a huge difference in preventing diarrheal diseases.

Despite the deadliest diseases in Cameroon being preventable and treatable, they remain widespread. Putting more resources toward basic healthcare and raising awareness about these diseases could help save thousands of lives each year.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr