Population: 20 million (UN, 2011 estimate)
Area: 475,442 sq km (183,568 sq miles)
Main languages: French (official), English (official), Arabic, local languages (e.g. Bantu, Semi-Bantu and Sudanic groups)
Main religions: Christianity, Islam, indigenous beliefs
Life expectancy: 53 (WHO, 2011)
Literacy rate: Adult [15+] 71%, Youth [15-24] 83% (UNESCO, 2007)
Urban population (% of total): 52.7% (UN, 2012)
Population under 18 years: 9.4 million (UNICEF, 2011)
Child mortality: 127 children in every 1,000 likely to die before 5 years (WHO, 2011)
Child nutrition: 15.1% of children below 5 years underweight (WHO, 2012)
Number of children (0-17) who have lost one/both parents: 1.3 million (UNICEF, 2011)
Though Cameroon has a wealth of natural resources and good agricultural conditions in many regions, poverty is widespread.
Under its ‘Vision 2035’ plan, the government aims to reduce poverty from 40% in 2007 to less than 20% by 2035. Economic development, through mining, infrastructure and power projects, is seen as the way to achieve this.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 36% of children under five are stunted through lack of adequate nutrition.
With a seasonally wet climate in many regions, malaria is a constant threat to health. Children are particularly vulnerable and nearly a fifth of deaths among under-fives are caused by malaria.
There were over 1.8 million cases of malaria during 2009 (WHO).
Poor water and sanitation
According to government data, less than 40% of the population have access to piped drinking water. And fewer than half of Cameroonians have proper sanitation facilities. Illnesses linked to unsafe water and poor hygiene, such as cholera and diarrhoea, are a regular threat.
Cholera is another killer disease. Epidemics tend to break out during the wet season. Heavy rain or flooding can lead to the contamination of water wells and other drinking sources. A severe outbreak of cholera caused over 700 deaths in 2011. Two specialist treatment centres (in Yaoundé and Maroua) offer free treatment to cholera patients.
In Yaoundé, the government has promised to improve public water facilities for the city’s 2 million inhabitants
With a severe shortage of medical professionals – there are fewer than two doctors for every 10,000 people – the Cameroonian health system struggles to offer a high level of care.
In 2009, 5% of the adult population or 440,000 people were living with HIV/AIDS.
With a shortage of doctors, health services in Cameroon are often provided by nurses. As well as being trained in basic health care, nurses focus on preventative programmes and education on matters such as hygiene, nutrition and HIV/AIDS.
Adequate funding is lacking, with around 6% of government expenditure spent on health. To improve the availability of services and drugs, a fee-based system was introduced. This allows medical facilities to charge fees for services and treatments.
Some experts say the charging of fees in Cameroon’s hospitals has caused patients to die for lack of medical care when they were unable to pay for treatment.