How can Education Improve Healthcare in Cameroon?
It was World Health Day on 7th April and the theme this year is building a fairer, healthier world - a fitting topic in the context of the global pandemic gripping the world.
COVID-19 has highlighted the health inequalities that exist globally, with geographical differences in access to and quality of healthcare laid bare.
We take a look at the state of healthcare in Cameroon and how education can improve healthcare.
The Cameroonian Population
Cameroon has a population of 27,044,435 and a current life expectancy of 59.70 years. Cameroon has a young population, with 48% of the total population below 15 years old, while only 3.5% are aged 65 and above.
Communicable, maternal and neonatal diseases are the main causes of death in Cameroon, with Malaria and HIV/Aids the two most leading causes of death. Malaria is prevalent in coastal and southern Cameroon in particular and has a devastating impact on public health. Although significant progress has been made to tackle malaria, it remains a high risk, with an estimated 3.3–3.7 million cases in health care facilities every year.
HIV and Aids is also a serious health concern in Cameroon, with an estimated 510,000 people living with HIV and Aids in Cameroon in 2019. Covid-19 has had a detrimental impact on healthcare for people with HIV and Aids, as concerns have been raised that tens of thousands of people living with HIV and Aids have refused to enter hospital for treatment, due to fear of catching Covid-19. Even before the pandemic, people struggled to access healthcare, particularly due to challenges around transport from rural areas to city hospitals. This is of great concern due to the need to access quick treatment for HIV and Aids, with 75% of Aids-infected children dying from the illness in their first five years.
Maternal and Prenatal Healthcare
There are significant challenges around maternal and prenatal healthcare in Cameroon, with an estimated 4,000 women dying every year from causes linked to pregnancy and birth. There is also a concerningly high neonatal mortality rate, with an estimated 26.1 deaths per 1,000 live births.
There are a number of reasons that mortality rates for mothers and babies are so high, such as the fact that 33% of Cameroonian deliveries are carried out at home and alarming sepsis rates for women who give birth in hospital.
The picture for the health of children is even more worrying, with a mortality rate of 74.8 per 1,000 live births for under-fives in Cameroon.
Whilst progress has been made in tackling these challenges, there is still a need for improvements to maternal, prenatal and children’s healthcare to ensure that women and children are given the best chances.
The Healthcare Workforce
There is a definite lack of human resources for health in Cameroon, with only 1.1 physicians and 7.8 nurses and midwives per 10,000 population. This is further exacerbated by an inequal geographical distribution across the country, with rural areas experiencing an even greater shortage of healthcare workers.
This is in addition to concerns over the aging public sector health workforce, with 53% of health workers aged 40-51 and 31% over 51, whilst retirement in this sector is between 50 and 55. A shortage in healthcare expertise which is only expected to worsen as existing health workers move closer to retirement, is undoubtedly contributing to restrictive access to adequate and available healthcare for people in need in Cameroon.
How can Education Tackle Healthcare Challenges?
Education can help to improve national and individual healthcare in many ways.
At an individual level, education has a very positive effect on long-term health. It can improve awareness and understanding of factors that might damage health and how to access treatment and health services, as well as improve knowledge on how to live more healthily.
Education has also been proven to mitigate stress and anxiety and provide access to more employment opportunities and life chances which would reduce anxiety in the long term and provide more resources for individuals to improve their own healthcare in the future.
On a more national scale, more children and young people in education is likely to result in more trained experts in the healthcare sector, which could help overcome workforce issues and provide more accessible healthcare closer to home. It can also support people to develop skills and knowledge about healthcare that can be used to support others around them every day and be passed on to family and children, such as how to respond to health emergencies and how to prevent them from occurring.
Sponsoring a child to access education will in turn support them to live healthier, happier lives and contribute towards a future of improved health in Cameroon. You can find out more about what sponsoring a child entails here: https://www.childrenofcameroon.co.uk/about