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Situated in West Africa, Cameroon is shaped like an elongated triangle. It shares borders with Nigeria in the west and northwest, Chad in the north and northeast, Central African Republic in the east, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in the south, the Gulf of Guinea (Atlantic Ocean) in the Southwest.
Cameroon has four geographical regions. The southern region extends from the 226-mile coastline eastward to the Middle Congo Basin between the southern frontier and the Sanaga River. It consists of coastal plains of an average width of 27 miles and a densely forested plateau at an average elevation of 960 feet. The central region extends from the Sanaga River northward to the Benue River and includes the Adamawa Plateau, at elevations of 2,500 ft to 4,500 ft. This is a transitional area where forest gives way to savanna. The northern region is essentially a vast savanna plain that slopes down to the Chad basin. The west is dominated by forested mountains with peaks reaching above 8,000 ft. Of the two main rivers, the Benue is navigable several months during the year, and the Sanaga is not navigable.
The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Despite a slow movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of President Paul BIYA.
In February 2008, Cameroon experienced significant civil unrest in half of its ten regions, most notably in the port city of Douala. Demonstrators clashed violently with police and then military personnel, resulting in the reported deaths of forty persons and the arrest of over 1,600 individuals. The unrest was marked by widespread road blockages, attacks on public and private vehicles, looting, the burning of government and other buildings, and roaming crowds of malcontents. This disturbance created shortages of fuel, food and other supplies throughout the country, and was ended through the deployment of military units and the use of significant force.
More recently, the woefully inadequate power generation sector has been a key contributing factor in the sharp economic downturn experienced by Cameroon during the current global financial crisis.
Cameroon has distinct regional cultural, religious, and political traditions as well as ethnic variety. The division of the country into British- and French-ruled League of Nations mandates after World War I created Anglophone and Francophone regions. The English-speaking region consists of the Southwest and Northwest provinces, where Pidgin English (Wes Cos) is the lingua franca and English is taught in school. The educational system and legal practices derive from those of England. The French-speaking region consists of the remaining eight provinces, where French is the lingua franca, the French school system is used, and the legal system is based on the statutory law of continental Europe. This region is dominant in numbers and power. Tension between the two regions increased after the introduction of a multiparty political system in the 1990s.
A sense of a common national culture has been created through shared history, schooling, national holidays and symbols, and enthusiasm for soccer. However, ethnic distinctiveness remains.
Waterborne diseases are prevalent.
Just within the past few months, in addition to the perennially troublesome tropical diseases listed below, Cameroon has experienced a yellow fever outbreak in a region previously thought not to be at risk for yellow fever, as well as a cholera outbreak that has claimed a number of lives. Maternal mortality is a significant problem, as is HIV/AIDS.
The staple foods eaten by the people of Cameroon vary from region to region, depending on climate, and what is grown locally. In general, the Cameroonian diet is characterized by bland, starchy foods that are eaten with spicy (often very hot) sauces. Meat on skewers, fried and roasted fish, curries and peppery soups are common dishes. An estimated 80% of the protein in the Cameroonian diet comes from bushmeat.
Staple foods eaten in the north are corn, millet, and peanuts. In the south, people eat more root vegetables, such as yams and cassava, as well as plantains (similar to bananas). In both north and south regions, the starchy foods are cooked, then pounded with a pestle (a hand-held tool, usually wooden) until they form a sticky mass called fufu (or foofoo), which is then formed into balls and dipped into tasty sauces. The sauces are made of ingredients such as cassava leaves, okra, and tomatoes. The food most typical in the southern region of Cameroon is ndole, which is made of boiled, shredded bitterleaf (a type of green), peanuts, and melon seeds. It is seasoned with spices and hot oil, and can be cooked with fish or meat. Bobolo, made of fermented cassava shaped in a loaf, is popular in both the south and central regions.
Fresh fruit is plentiful in Cameroon. The native mangoes are especially enjoyed. Other fruits grown locally and sold in village marketplaces include oranges, papayas, bananas, pineapples, coconuts, grapefruit, and limes.
The government's human rights record is poor, and it has continued to commit human rights abuses, particularly following widespread riots in February to protest against increased food and fuel costs. Security forces have carried out numerous unlawful killings and have also engaged in torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions are harsh and life threatening. Authorities arrest and detain anglophone citizens advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, persons not carrying government-issued identity cards, and other citizens. There have been incidents of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention and infringement of citizens' privacy rights. The government restricts citizens' freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, and harasses journalists. The government also impedes citizens' freedom of movement. Other problems include widespread official corruption; societal violence and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons, primarily children; and discrimination against pygmies, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and homosexuals. The government restricts worker rights and the activities of independent labor organizations. Child labor, hereditary servitude, and forced labor, including forced child labor, are problems.
Perhaps one of Cameroon's greatest natural resources is its diverse wildlife population. An amazing variety of animals large and small, plain and spectacular wander its savannas and rainforests. However, as Cameroon's human population and commerce expand into previously unsettled territory, competition and conflicts between animals and humans are increasing in intensity and frequency. All too often, such conflicts end with the destruction of habitat and the decline of species.
Of particular concern to many Cameroonians is the growing competition between people and African elephants. As agriculture expands into traditional elephant habitat, for example, incidents of crop destruction, and the subsequent killing of elephants, are becoming more frequent.
Cameroonian law explicitly allows indigenous forest-dwellers to practice “subsistence hunting” with the use of “traditional methods.” Morever, it establishes designated areas such as “community forests” and “community hunting zones,” and formulates legal rules specifying how the forest resources of such areas can be used by local residents and how local communities should be involved in their management. However, "bushmeat" is extremely popular among urban Cameroonians as well, providing an estimated 80% of the protein in their diet. Because of the strong demand for it, bushmeat brings high prices in the marketplace. This creates a strong incentive for poaching.
Other environmental abuses take the form of overfishing, overgrazing, and deforestation, which leads to desertification.
Because of its modest oil resources and favorable agricultural conditions, Cameroon has one of the best-endowed primary commodity economies in sub-Saharan Africa. Still, it faces many of the serious problems facing other underdeveloped countries, such as stagnating per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a top-heavy civil service, and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise. International oil and cocoa prices have a significant impact on the economy. Since 1990, the government has embarked on various IMF and World Bank programs designed to spur business investment, increase efficiency in agriculture, improve trade, and recapitalize the nation's banks. The IMF is pressing for more reforms, including increased budget transparency, privatization, and poverty reduction programs.
0-14 years: 40.9% (male 3,891,762/female 3,822,870)
15-64 years: 55.9% (male 5,298,143/female 5,250,493)
65 years and over: 3.3% (male 283,289/female 332,744) (2009 est.)
total: 19.2 years
male: 19 years
female: 19.3 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate:
2.19% (2009 est.)
34.1 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
12.2 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
urban population: 57% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 3.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 63.34 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 68.08 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 58.47 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 53.69 years
male: 52.89 years
female: 54.52 years (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS prevalence in adult population:
5.1% (2007 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS:
540,000 (2007 est.)
39,000 (2007 est.)
Major infectious diseases:
degree of risk: very high
food or waterborne diseases: bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A and E, and typhoid fever
vectorborne diseases: malaria and yellow fever
water contact disease: schistosomiasis
respiratory disease: meningococcal meningitis
animal contact disease: rabies (2009)
Cameroon Highlanders 31%, Equatorial Bantu 19%, Kirdi 11%, Fulani 10%, Northwestern Bantu 8%, Eastern Nigritic 7%, other African 13%, non-African less than 1%
indigenous beliefs 40%, Christian 40%, Muslim 20%
24 major African language groups, English (official), French (official)
total population: 67.9%
female: 59.8% (2001 est.)
GDP composition by sector:
services: 40.5% (2008 est.)
Labor force by occupation:
services: 17% (2001 est.)
30% (2001 est.)
Population below poverty line:
48% (2000 est.)
coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, oilseed, grains, root starches; livestock; timber
petroleum production and refining, aluminum production, food processing, light consumer goods, textiles, lumber, ship repair
Refugees & IDPs:
refugees (country of origin): 20,000-30,000 (Chad); 3,000 (Nigeria); 24,000 (Central African Republic) (2007)
Trafficking in persons:
Cameroon is a source, transit, and destination country for women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Most victims are children trafficked within the country, with girls being trafficked primarily for domestic servitude and sexual exploitation. Both boys and girls are also trafficked within Cameroon for forced labor in sweatshops, bars, restaurants, and on tea and cocoa plantations. Children are trafficked into Cameroon from neighboring states for forced labor in agriculture, fishing, street vending, and spare-parts shops. Cameroon is a transit country for children trafficked between Gabon and Nigeria, and from Nigeria to Saudi Arabia. It is a source country for women transported by sex-trafficking rings to Europe.
Cholera outbreak kills 15 in Cameroon
Traditional Ways Spread AIDS in Africa, Experts Say
African Children Often Lack Available AIDS Treatment
The Deep Roots of Aids
“Save My Wife”
Prudence’s Struggle Ends
‘Man in black’ fights for Cameroon apes
Cameroon's bushmeat dilemma
UN says Climate Change Hurting African Women
Life & Water Development Group – Cameroon
Sources (incomplete list):
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2009
http://encarta.msn.com © 1997-2009 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.
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