The lives of children in Cameroon should be better than in many
other African countries. A relatively stable state, albeit ruled
tightly by President Paul Biya, Cameroon has a decent agricultural
economy buoyed by oil reserves.
Yet despite these
favourable factors, over 50% of children in Cameroon live below
the poverty line and child mortality rates for the under fives are
on the increase. Malnutrition is rife in Cameroon, particularly in
the north of the country where around 55,000 children under the
age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition.
The causes are common across the region;
failure of harvests in addition to existing chronic poverty,
poor weaning and infant feeding practices and lack of access to
basic services such as health care and water with only 44% of
the population having access to safe water in rural areas.
The issue is
compounded by the government's apparent refusal to acknowledge
the extent of the problem with under half of the health
districts in the north regions having the necessary staff and
equipment to address the issue.
Additionally many mothers are
often reluctant to admit or even understand that their children
are suffering from malnutrition, delaying access to the help
that's required. Medical
staff report that children often come "to hospital in an
advanced state of malnutrition and with medical complications
... In such cases, it is almost impossible to save them." Little
wonder that literally tens of thousands of children in Cameroon
die from the effects malnutrition every year.
The issue of malnutrition in children in Cameroon was
exacerbated in 2008; a year which saw a sharp increase in food
prices, leading to social unrest and even riots.
today, after the government hoped to ease the problem by suspending
import taxes and vowed to increase home grown production by 30%
to help ease the problem, the situation is still difficult for
many families. As one person in Cameroon stated "When I go out
in the morning, I often choose to have lunch around 10 so that I
don’t have to eat at noon. Because it has become difficult to
eat three times a day. It is a luxury I cannot afford."
The video documentary
above highlights the work of UNICEF in addressing malnutrition in
Cameroon, for as the video states "In a country of relative
wealth, a middle-income country, there is really no need for
52,000 children to die each year of malnutrition.”