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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track 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.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid