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

Lebanese Media Unite to Support Palestinians in Gaza

Joint newscast billed as Arab world’s first unified news bulletin in support of Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip More

Photogallery Australian PM Alleges ‘Coverup’ at MH17 Crash Site

Meanwhile, Russia's ambassador to Malaysia denies plane's black boxes were opened before they were handed over to Malaysian officials More

Despite Advances in AIDS Treatment, Stigma Lingers

Leading immunologist tells VOA that stigma is often what prevents those infected with disease from seeking treatment 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.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid