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The Republic of Cameroon is in Western Africa, between Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria. The former French Cameroon and part of British Cameroon merged in 1961 to form the present country. The population is approximately 16.2 million with a growth rate of 2.7%. There are 10 provinces and more than 8 ethnic groups within Cameroon. Both English and French are the official languages and there are over 24 African language groups. Approximately 40% of the population holds indigenous beliefs, 40% are Christian, and 20% are Muslim.
Cameroon is a unitary republic but the preponderance of power remains with the president. Despite movement toward democratic reform, political power remains firmly in the hands of an ethnic oligarchy. The President is the chief of state; the prime minister is the head of government. There is a cabinet appointed by the president from proposals submitted by the Prime Minister. There are also legislative and judicial branches. The 1972 constitution as modified by 1996 reforms provides for a strong central government dominated by the executive. The president is empowered to name and dismiss cabinet members, judges, generals, provincial governors, prefects, sub-prefects, and heads of Cameroon's parastatal (about 100 state-controlled) firms, obligate or disburse expenditures, approve or veto regulations, declare states of emergency, and appropriate and spend profits of parastatal firms. The president is not required to consult the National Assembly.
The judiciary is subordinate to the executive branch's Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Court may review the constitutionality of a law only at the president's request. While the president, the minister of justice and the president's judicial advisers (the Supreme Court) top the judicial hierarchy, traditional rulers, courts, and councils also exercise functions of government. Traditional courts still play a major role in domestic, property, and probate law. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. Traditional rulers receive stipends from the national government.
Cameroon has generally enjoyed stability, which has permitted the development of agriculture, roads, and railways, as well as a petroleum industry. Because of its 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 a top-heavy civil service and a generally unfavorable climate for business enterprise. For a quarter century following independence, Cameroon was one of the most prosperous countries in Africa. The drop in commodity prices for its principal exports--oil, cocoa, coffee, and cotton--in the mid-1980s, combined with an overvalued currency and economic mismanagement, led to a decade-long recession. Real per capita GDP fell by more than 60% from 1986 to 1994. The current account and fiscal deficits widened, and foreign debt grew. 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. 48% of the population remains below the poverty line and there is a 30% unemployment rate. The economy is primarily comprised of agriculture 70%, industry and commerce 13%, other 17%.
|Cameroon has a unique educational system in Africa with English and French as the languages of instruction. 3.8% of the GDP is spent on public education. Primary education, which generally stems the years 5-12, is compulsory in Cameroon. There are no tuition fees at government primary schools but there is a preponderance of for-fee religious schools. Cameroon has achieved one of the highest rates of school attendance in Africa. Mission schools play an important role in education and are partly subsidized by the government. There are numerous private and governmental secondary and tertiary schools. The literacy rate has increased greatly over the last 20 years. As of 1999 it was 68% for women and 81% for men which indicates that there is a gender disparity in education. Girls national dropout rates are high and there are numerous social barriers preventing girls from achieving parity with boys.|
|In Cameroon, the doctor to patient ratio is 1: 12,500, the infant mortality rate exceeds six percent, and less than half the population has access to safe drinking water. The under five mortality rate is 150/ 1,000 and the Infant Mortality Rate is 77/1,000 live births. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has emerged as one of the most pressing social health concerns, with an estimated six percent to seventeen percent of the population infected. Cameroon lies within the African meningitis belt causing endemic outbreaks of meningitis.|
|Food & Diet|
|In Cameroon the main staple is maize, followed by cassava. Approximately only 6% of the total daily calories consumed are from animal products and only around 2,300 calories on average are consumed per day. 6% of the under five population is wasted, 29% are stunted and 22% are underweight. 86% of households consume iodized salt however, during 1985-94, 26% of children age 6-11 years had goiters. The prevalence of anemia for non-pregnant women is 24%, for pregnant women is 53%, and for children is 57%. The prevalence of Vitamin A deficiency is 19.7% for children and 0.5% for pregnant women.|