News / Africa

Child Malnutrition Spreading in Cameroon

Medics near Garoua, Cameroon, evaluate Little Bossiran's height and weight to determine degree of malnourishment (VOA/D. Ntaryike)
Medics near Garoua, Cameroon, evaluate Little Bossiran's height and weight to determine degree of malnourishment (VOA/D. Ntaryike)
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Cameroon is often touted as a nation endowed with enormous agricultural potential.  It boasts abundant rainfall and fertile lands allowing the cultivation of diverse crops.   
 
However, the middle-income oil producer is home to 44 percent of all undernourished children in the six-member Economic Community of Central African States, CEMAC.  UNICEF says malnutrition afflicts three out of ten of Cameroonian children.
 
Experts blame the high number on poverty, ignorance, political neglect and epidemics.
 
The situation, illustrated by growing numbers of stunted and emaciated children, has alarmed child health advocates.  
 
Ines Lezama, a nutrition expert with UNICEF Cameroon, says the country "has been in the red-list (danger zone) for a long time.  We have evidence from our latest surveys in 2011 that the rate of stunting or acute malnutrition is going up."
 
Malnutrition rates vary according to region – ranging from mild prevalence in the fertile south to more severe in the Sahelian and drought-prone northern regions on the fringes of the Sahara desert.

In Garoua, Cameroon, one of two nurses at the regional hospital explaining incidence of malnutrition (VOA/D.Ntaryike)In Garoua, Cameroon, one of two nurses at the regional hospital explaining incidence of malnutrition (VOA/D.Ntaryike)
x
In Garoua, Cameroon, one of two nurses at the regional hospital explaining incidence of malnutrition (VOA/D.Ntaryike)
In Garoua, Cameroon, one of two nurses at the regional hospital explaining incidence of malnutrition (VOA/D.Ntaryike)
The poverty-stricken area is home to one-third of the country’s over nine million kids. They face various hardships including difficult access to safe drinking water and sanitation, recurring floods, cholera outbursts and frequent crop failures. 
 
However, the main market in Garoua, chief town of the North Region some 1,200km from the capital, Yaoundé, flourishes with imported – but expensive -- foodstuffs. 
 
Vegetable vendor, Mohamadou Yakubu says abundant harvests in the country’s south guarantee supplies for about three months of the year.

"During the rainy season," he explains, "we ensure adequate stocks of cabbages, carrots, lettuce, avocadoes and potatoes from the country’s south.  My customers are mostly salaried workers as the vegetables are too expensive for the poor masses.  Costly transportation and exorbitant taxes result in the high prices."
 
He says during the dry season, supplies thin out and become more expensive.  Ordinary people are often restricted to a small number of traditional foods, including a starchy type of couscous made from maize, millet, or sorghum.
 
He says the result is endemic malnutrition sustained by a lack of foods containing vitamins, minerals and energy.
 
Within walking distance from the market is the Garoua Regional Hospital.  Its pediatric ward includes a center established in 2009 with UNICEF support that provides free therapy for malnourished children. 
 
Amadou Alouk, one of the hospital's two nurses, says thans to the center,  malnutrition-related deaths have dropped from an average of six per month for every thirty registered patients. 

"Unfortunately in June, we recorded six deaths,":he says. "Most are children of the poor who cannot afford proper medication and rely on traditional medicines or come for treatment too late.
 
Alouk’s account is suddenly interrupted by a cluster of wailing women.  One of them, Tchinakoui Rebecca, a 34-year-old mother of four, has just lost a baby. 
 
"I don’t know what killed him," she says. "All I know is that he had stomach pains."
 
Medics say the two-week-old died of diarrhea, a leading cause of malnutrition in the region where open defecation is the norm.
 
Meantime, victims of malnutrition suffer a number of issues, including impaired intellectual development, visual impairment, and susceptibility to infections. 
 
Experts add that malnutrition drains household incomes and significantly slashes human productivity. 
 
Cameroon’s budget does not allocate funding for nutrition.
 
However, UNICEF recommends investing US$31.3 [15,650 FCFA] per child per year to significantly curtail the scourge.
 
The UN agency has been partnering with several organizations in the hardest-hit zones.  They provide free supplementary and fortified foods, promote exclusive breastfeeding, and train volunteers to conduct early screening for malnutrition. 
 
However, efforts to improve nutrition remain challenging.  An estimated 20,000 agents are needed to provide nationwide coverage.  Support is also needed for deworming campaigns, nutrition courses in schools and the increased distribution of therapeutic foods.
 
In March, the government joined a global crusade called SUN, aimed at Scaling Up Nutrition.  But observers warn that until the political will is translated into concrete action, malnutrition will continue to endanger the wellbeing of millions of Cameroonian children.
 
Listen to report on malnutrition in Cameroon
Listen to report on malnutrition in Camerooni
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid