A lower-middle-income country with over 26 million people, Cameroon ranks 153 out of 189 countries in the 2020 Human Development Index. While the country experienced consistent economic growth averaging 4.3 percent per year for a decade up to 2019, poverty levels have remained steady.
Over 55 percent of Cameroonians live in poverty which affects several aspects of their lives – from health to education, living conditions and work among others. 37.7 percent of people are severely impoverished. The incidence of poverty is particularly high in rural parts of the northernmost and eastern regions, where structural underdevelopment and recurring climatic shocks, including floods and prolonged dry spells, limit people’s ability to thrive.
Cameroon faces three large-scale, complex and protracted crises. Since 2014, the country has been experiencing influxes of refugees fleeing violent conflict in north-east Nigeria. Jihadist incursions and frequent attacks in Cameroon’s Far North region are also causing internal displacements and disrupting local agricultural production and livelihoods. Furthermore, political instability and armed conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR) has been forcing CAR refugees into the East, Adamawa and North regions. Since 2017, the North West and South West regions have been affected by conflict between state security forces and non-state armed groups seeking autonomy for the two English speaking regions.
The agricultural sector dominates the economy, employing 62 percent of the labour force and accounting for 15 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). However, the effects of climate change, traditional agricultural practices, high post-harvest losses and fragmented markets undermine the sector’s ability to significantly contribute towards improved income, especially for smallholder farmers. Poor road infrastructure and land degradation also severely limit people’s access to sufficient nutritious food.
Despite progress, anaemia among women of reproductive age remains high, at 41.4 percent. Low birth weight remains a challenge, with 12 percent of infants born under-weight. While the country has made strides in reducing stunting and wasting, 29 percent of children under 5 are still stunted, and 4.3 percent suffer from wasting. The prevalence of stunting varies across regions, with peaks of 40.2 percent in North, 36.4 percent in Adamawa and Far North, and 32.8 percent in the East region. High malnutrition rates are primarily the result of limited consumption of nutritious food, diarrheal diseases which limit the absorption of nutrients, and limited access to safe and clean water, sanitation and health services.
Climate-related shocks, coupled with insecurity and displacements, mean food insecurity has continued to increase, with an average of 15.1 percent of families across the country having a poor or borderline food consumption score. The crises are putting pressure on the country’s natural resources and social services and worsening pre-existing vulnerabilities, with the socio-economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the situation.
Working with the Government and other partners, the World Food Programme (WFP) helps Cameroon to achieve zero hunger by responding to the immediate food and nutrition needs of crisis-affected populations in Adamawa, East, Far North, North, North West and South West regions and implementing an integrated package of interventions including activities to improve the long-term resilience of communities. With humanitarian access remaining a challenge, WFP facilitates access to hard-to-reach regions by providing passenger and cargo air services, enabling humanitarian staff and assistance to reach those in need on time.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Cameroon
WFP provides unconditional life-saving food assistance to populations affected by shocks such as violent conflict and the effects of climate change and pandemics, including refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), returnees and vulnerable host communities in Adamawa, East, Far North, North, North West and South West regions. WFP’s support ensures safe access to adequate and nutritious food during and after crises, while supporting recovery from and building resilience to shocks.
Early recovery and resilience
WFP promotes the creation of productive assets and supports the development of income-generating activities using community-led gender-responsive approaches. WFP works to ensure that vulnerable families in protracted displacement and at-risk communities in chronically food-insecure areas have safe year-round access to adequate and nutritious food and increase their resilience to shocks.
WFP provides nutrition assistance to children aged 6 months to 5 years, pregnant and breastfeeding women and girls, and malnourished people living with HIV. WFP’s goal is to reduce all forms of malnutrition among the target vulnerable populations in prioritized food insecure regions in line with national priorities. WFP’s nutrition improvement activities include malnutrition prevention and treatment, social and behaviour change communication to encourage the adoption of recommended nutritional practices as well as capacity strengthening. These are, implemented in coordination with government, other UN agencies and nutrition partners.
Support to smallholder farmers
WFP provides financial and technical support to food insecure smallholder farmers in the Far North, North, Adamawa and East regions of Cameroon to enhance their productivity and livelihoods. WFP’s focus is on promoting local agricultural value chains among smallholder farmers through building and managing community infrastructure and post-harvest storage facilities, improving agricultural practices, diversifying crop production, and enhancing market access for both men and women.
WFP supports the Government in developing shock-response, gender- and nutrition-sensitive social safety nets and creating national systems for cash transfers as well as for home-grown school meals. Support to the Government includes South-South cooperation initiatives facilitated by WFP’s Centres of Excellence in Brazil and China.
UN Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
WFP operates safe, reliable, and cost-effective air services to enable the humanitarian community to reach people in need in hard-to-reach crisis-affected areas. By operating passenger and cargo aircraft, including security and medical evaluations, WFP provides alternative transport where commercial air operators are unavailable due to significant distances and insecurity limiting access to parts of the country. WFP is committed to strengthening air transport service delivery by reopening and launching additional destinations throughout the pandemic and post-pandemic period.
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