With a population of 23.7 million people, Cameroon is strategically positioned at the crossroads of West and Central Africa. Over the past decades, the country has enjoyed economic growth as well as relative peace and stability in a sub-region troubled by conflict and crisis.
Despite this, nearly 40 percent of Cameroon's population still live below the poverty line and human development indicators remain low. Classified as lower-middle-income, the country ranks 153 out of 188 according to the 2015 Human Development Index. The 2015 Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranks Cameroon 68 out of 104 with a score of 24.2, placing it in the “serious” severity level of hunger.
The agricultural sector has the greatest potential in driving economic growth and reducing poverty and hunger. However, due to outdated agricultural practices, high post-harvest losses, fragmented markets and recurrent climate shocks especially in the Northern regions, the country continues to struggle with food security challenges.
Poverty has a strong regional dimension. It is concentrated in rural areas and specifically in the northernmost and eastern regions, where structural underdevelopment and recurring climatic hazards have limited opportunities for communities to thrive and break out of the poverty trap. The Sahelian regions – North and Far North of Cameroon are highly food insecure areas, frequently exposed to food crises and climate shocks, and with rates of acute and chronic malnutrition exceeding the emergency thresholds.
Chronic malnutrition remains a public health issue in Cameroon and a main obstacle to achieving zero hunger by 2030: it affects more than 31 percent of children aged under 5. The high malnutrition rates are primarily a result of low educational levels of mothers, poor feeding practices and limited access to basic health services – all within the context of overall household food insecurity. Stunting is more pronounced in children living in the four most vulnerable regions of Cameroon where the rates are above the national average: Far North (41.9%), North (33.8%), Adamawa (37.8%) and East (35.8%).
Adding to domestic challenges, over the past few years, Cameroon has been caught in between two major security crises in the sub-region (C.A.R. and Nigeria), resulting in large scale population movements across borders as well as within the country. Spill-over conflict and insecurity linked to Boko Haram insurgency have caused disruptions in economic activities, notably cross-border trade and agriculture. Cameroon currently hosts some 360,000 refugees from C.A.R. and Nigeria and over 180,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who fled insecurity along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.
As a result of multiple shocks and stresses, and pressure from insecurity and displacement, the overall food security situation sharply deteriorated in 2015 and 2016, with the number of food insecure people in the country reaching 2.6 million in October 2016. The Far North Region, hosting a large number of refugees and IDPs, is most affected. Similarly, a survey conducted by UNICEF in 2015 indicates an increase in malnutrition rates, especially in the Far North, compared to 2013 and 2014.
Women in Cameroon, especially in the north and eastern regions, continue to face social gender norms restricting their roles within society. The husbands typically controls household resources, which raises concern for maternal and child health and exacerbates the inter-generational poverty gap. More than half (54%) of women in Cameroon have only completed primary education or have received no schooling at all, and 20 percent are illiterate.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Cameroon
Responding to emergencies
WFP works with ministries and local structures to provide life-saving food and nutrition support to CAR and Nigerian refugees, displaced populations and vulnerable food insecure communities in the east and Far North region. In 2017, WFP aims to target 560,000 people, including 140,000 children for nutrition support. WFP and partners are expanding the use of Cash-Based Transfers, including cash for work programmes.
Children and pregnant and nursing women amongst refugees and host populations receive nutrition support aimed at preventing and treating all forms of malnutrition. Additionally, nutrition assistance is provided to malnourished individuals living with HIV via the Food by Prescription Programme.
Reducing disaster risk
WFP also supports host communities affected by climate change-related crises, with the aim to strengthen their resilience to disasters by building assets such as granaries and providing training in food storage techniques.
WFP aims to provide school meals to 55,000 children in rural primary schools each year, encouraging school attendance.
UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
The UN Humanitarian air service in Cameroon operated by WFP ensures access and safe and reliable air transport services for 41 humanitarian agencies in Cameroon. The flights link UNHAS base in Yaoundé with Maroua, Ngaoundere and Garoua, as well as N’Djamena in Chad.