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Facts About Poverty in Cameroon
By definition, poverty is a state of being extremely poor, which includes the desperate search for food, water and shelter. Taking a look at poverty from a global perspective, the majority of the poorest countries in the world are in Africa. Facts about poverty in Cameroon is a topic that is overlooked in the media, but it remains extremely relevant to those experiencing it.

10 Facts About Poverty in Cameroon

  1. The Human Development Index (HDI) is the calculation of a country’s health, education and income. As of 2015, the most recent HDI reported Cameroon’s value at 0.518 percent. Out of 188 countries, Cameroon ranks at 153. The good news seems to be that this is progress for Cameroon. The infant mortality rate has decreased, raising the life expectancy of newborns by 2.4 years. The expected number of years enrolled in formal schooling has increased by 2.4 years, and the GNI per capita has risen by 5.5 percent since 1990.
  2. At an estimated population count of 24.68 million people, 30 percent of Cameroon’s society lives below the poverty line.
  3. In 1960 Cameroon obtained their independence while experiencing a prosperous economy that soon transitioned into a decade-long recession beginning in the mid-1980’s. Their economic prosperity was attributed to income from oil, gas, timber, aluminum, agriculture, and the mining of natural resources. While much of their profit has relied on these exports, the economy eventually fell short due to a major decline in global prices. This led to the current stagnant and inequitable per capita income.
  4. The current unemployment rate stands at 4.2 percent, which is a dramatic increase in employment since the country’s all-time high record in 1996 of 8 percent.
  5. Health care is a major struggle for impoverished citizens of Cameroon. People don’t possess the financial capacity to access decent healthcare, and the public resources available are insufficient. Although more money is spent on healthcare in Cameroon than any other sub-Saharan country, it’s only available to the wealthy regions. Organizations like The International Medical Corps are helping with preventive medicine as well as educating the citizens of Cameroon on maintaining good health. This is a major fact about poverty in Cameroon that needs to be addressed in order to prevent fatal diseases and deaths.
  6. Cameroon’s poverty level is considered a rural phenomenon, with 55 percent of the poor occupying that geography. The level of education, gender and matrimonial status reflects the poverty dynamic. Women and children make up about half of those living in rural poverty.
  7. Proper education isn’t accessible to children of Cameroon, especially in poor regions. The expected years of schooling, on average, is about 10 years. The adult literacy rate of around 70 percent is due to the lack the proper funding, infrastructure, and teachers in the educational system.
  8. Cameroonians face the challenge of obliterating malnutrition. Moderate to severe stunting affects 31.7 percent of children under the age of five. Health hazards, extreme illnesses, and death are known ramifications of malnutrition. Food scarcity has the strongest influence on the affliction of poverty. Limited income equates a limited amount of food. Organizations like The World Food Program are trying to help people in Cameroon eradicate malnutrition by 2030.
  9. The government of Cameroon provides subsidies for electricity, food, and fuel, that have dented the federal budget. This affects the potential funding for education, healthcare and infrastructure. This poses concern of the government’s priority for funding and assisting with impoverished societies.
  10. Migration appears to be the most popular resolution to individuals growing up in impoverished regions Cameroon. In response to the increasing poverty, many people move out of the country to seek better living conditions. A few key factors that lead to migration are; family reunification, relocation in search of education, and lack of autonomy.

Among the many facts about poverty in Cameroon that can be discussed, these issues are the most prevalent to those living in these conditions. With assistance from other countries with greater resources and organizations like The World Food Program, Cameroon’s state of poverty could improve drastically.

– Kayla Sellers
Photo: Flickr

Malnutrition in Cameroon
Despite relative peace and political stability in Cameroon, it remains a country plagued by food shortages and malnutrition.

The Problem

Cameroon is home to 23.7 million people, 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Poverty is concentrated in four regions —  the Far North, the North, Adamaoua and the East. These same regions are those most severely impacted by food insecurity. In fact, OCHA (the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) reported a 189 percent increase in food insecurity between 2013 and 2016 and stated that 2.6 million people in Cameroon were food insecure in 2017.

In April 2018, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that that number has risen to 3.9 million, 2.5 million of whom are living in one of the four aforementioned regions. In other words, 36.7 percent of the population in these four regions is food insecure.

Cameroon’s harsh climate makes growing crops extremely challenging. In the North, between 25 and 30 percent of the land is completely barren and unsuitable for cultivation. Furthermore, the dry season is long, during which severe water shortages are widespread and, when rain does come, ruinous floods become common.

Refugees and IDPs in Cameroon

The relative peace and stability of Cameroon make it attractive to refugees fleeing danger and violence in neighboring countries. Namely, refugees emanate from Chad (to the North/Northeast of Cameroon), Nigeria (to the North/Northwest) and the Central African Republic or C.A.R. (to the East).

At the end of 2017, the UNHCR (the U.N.’s Refugee Agency) reported that over 85,000 Nigerian refugees lived in the Far North region of Cameroon and about 231,000 refugees from C.A.R lived in the North, Adamaoua and East regions. Such dramatic population influxes take a severe toll on the already limited food supply of Cameroon.

In addition, Boko Haram — the major cause of most Nigerian refugees fleeing for Cameroon — has been active along the Nigerian-Cameroonian border; so, along with forcing Nigerians to flee violence and resettle in the Far North of Cameroon, Boko Haram violence also forces local Cameroonians from the Far North to flee south into the North and Adamaoua regions.

These internal Cameroonian refugees are officially referred to as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Between 2014 and 2015, over 70 percent of farmers in the Far North region, fleeing Boko Haram violence or over-crowding caused by the influx of refugees, deserted their land to move elsewhere to a less crowded area.

However, rather than lessen the pressure placed on the already scarce food resources of the Far North, IDPs abandoning their farms only increases it, for much viable land is now not being farmed. As a result, the production of cereal crops, the main staple food of the region, was down over 50 percent between 2014 and 2015.

Efforts to Help & Reasons for Hope

The WFP is committed to helping achieve the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) goal number two and to helping end hunger and malnutrition in Cameroon. To accomplish this, the organization chose to target the four above-named regions most impacted by food shortages and malnutrition in Cameroon.

Regional violence — such as that caused by Boko Haram — makes delivering food especially difficult, but the WFP has remained committed to helping in Cameroon nonetheless. The organization continues to raise money and increase the amount of food and nutritional supplies being sent to refugee camps. Furthermore, the WFP runs a supplementary feeding program that specifically targets childhood nutrition, as an estimated 31 percent of all children in Cameroon between the ages of six months and five years are chronically malnourished.

Despite continued challenges, the impact of WFP shows reasons for hope. In April of this year alone, the WFP helped over 292,000 people in Cameroon. Almost 75,000 CAR refugees living in East, Adamaoua and North regions, 47,500 Nigerian refugees and almost 17,000 Cameroonian IDPs in the Far North region received food rations or cash transfers from WFP.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr