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