CAMEROON IN FOCUS

The population of Cameroon as of 2012 is estimated to be 20,129,878, the 58th most populous country in the world. The country is ranked 150 out of 187 in the United Nations Human Development Index as of 2011, with a life expectancy at birth of just 51.6 years.

The Republic of Cameroon is situated in central and western Africa. It borders Nigeria to the west; Chad to the northeast; the Central African Republic to the east; and Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo to the south. Cameroon’s coastline lies on the Bight of Bonny, part of the Gulf of Guinea and the Atlantic Ocean. On 1 January 1960, French Cameroun gained independence from France under President AhmadouAhidjo, and on 1 October 1961, the formerly-British Southern Cameroons united with its neighbour to form the Federal Republicof Cameroon. The country is often referred to as “Africa in miniature” for its geological and cultural diversity. Natural features include beaches, deserts, mountains, rainforests, and savannas. The highest point is

Mount Cameroon in the south-west and the largest cities are Douala, Yaoundé, and Garoua. Cameroon is home to over 200 different ethnic and linguistic groups. The country is well known for its native styles of music, particularly Makossa and Bikutsi, and for its successful national football team. English and French are the official languages and the majority of Cameroonians are subsistent farmers.

Cultural & other beliefs

In certain regions of Cameroon and Africa, blood plays an integral part of the belief system and it is widely believed that inheriting sickle cell is a curse.  A child is often ostracized and rejected. Lacking adequate information about the inheritance of the disease, parents may have feelings of helplessness and guilt that can often lead them to blame each other for the child’s illness. Frequent crises may cause parents to feel they are being punished for wrongdoing. Because sickle cell disorder is inherited, parents might feel a need to keep it a secret.

Sometimes parents/carers are told that their children will not live up to 12 or 21 years old and that is the myth and this belief is echoed among the population leading to care and treatment often be ignored. Similarly, individuals with the condition (and even carriers) may be reluctant to tell prospective partners about their status.  Culturally sensitive information, comprehensive counselling and support from a psychologist are usually antidotal.

Certain religious beliefs are opposed to therapeutic intervention such as blood transfusions or medication and healthcare professionals should be aware of how this can affect the delivery and maintenance of care. In addition some individuals feel stigmatized by their reliance on medication and the prospect of being labelled as ‘drug addicts’.