Current health issues and progress in Cameroon

Cameroon is currently working towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). To achieve the targets for the reduction of child mortality, which forms MDG 4, Cameroon should reduce under-five deaths per 1,000 live births to 45, and increase measles immunisation to 100 per cent by 2015. In 2011 under-five mortality stood at 95 deaths per 1,000 live births, and measles immunisation at 82 per cent. This suggests that significant changes are required for the country to get back on track in terms of its progress towards achieving this goal.

The global MDG 5 target for maternal health is to reduce the number of women who die in pregnancy and childbirth by three quarters between 1990 and 2015. When applying this target to Cameroon, maternal mortality should fall to 168 cases per 100,000 live births. In the period 2007-11 Cameroon had a reported maternal mortality ratio of 670 deaths per 100,000 live births (this figure was estimated at 690 deaths per 100,000 by UN agencies/World Bank in 2010). Based on the data reported by the country, Cameroon is unlikely to achieve the maternal mortality target by 2015. Part of the goal also stipulates that 100 per cent of births must be attended by a skilled health professional. In the period 2007-12 this figure stood at 64 per cent, so progress towards this target is also off track.

The 2013 MDG progress report for Cameroon provides suggestions from civil society organisations on potential methods of improving health care in the country and achieving those goals laid out in the millennium development framework. For MDGs 4 and 5 it is suggested that there is a need for further investment in medical staff training, and the construction of more medical district hospitals to further the gains made under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, which increased the number of child delivery centres between 2005 and 2010.

MDG 6 aims for a reduction in the prevalence of HIV, malaria and other diseases. The rate of HIV infection in the country rose significantly in the period 1990-2012, although it has been gradually decreasing since 2002. There was an overall increase in the number of deaths from malaria in the period 2006-12, and levels of estimated mortality (when data excludes cases co-morbid with HIV) from TB in the country rose by approximately a third in the period 1990-2012. Dramatic progress in these areas is required if the country is to come close to achieving MDG 6.

It was suggested in the 2013 MDG progress report for Cameroon that in order to adequately tackle the HIV/AIDS problem free HIV screening should be made available, and those infected with HIV should be encouraged to attend medical centres for regular treatment. As well as this, antiretroviral drugs need to be made more available, particularly in rural areas. Furthermore, it is advisable that education on HIV be introduced into the curriculum of all primary and secondary schools to ensure that all children grow up with a more thorough understanding of the disease.