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Cameroon - Hazards

Many common ailments are attributable to unsanitary conditions. Rivers, canals, stagnant pools, and wells that serve for laundering, bathing, and the washing of food as well as for drinking water are polluted with human and animal waste. Flies breed in open latrines and waste disposal sites. Disease also results from improper handling of perishable foods and from congested housing in the towns. Elsewhere, human waste is collected nightly in buckets and is buried outside the town limits. Simple pit latrines are commonly in use, and most villagers keep pigs in their back yards as scavengers of feces.

Neglected tropical diseases, ever-present in the population (Buruli ulcer, trypanosomiasis, onchocerciasis, lymphatic filariasis, schistosomiasis, etc.), are receiving increasing attention from public health professionals.

Noncommunicable diseases and injuries are on the rise as the population’s lifestyles and food habits change, especially in urban areas. The principal noncommunicable diseases are high blood pressure, diabetes, blindness, cancers, oral and dental diseases, mental health problems and road traffic injuries. Cameroon faces various major risks for emergencies and disasters, such as epidemics, flooding, volcanic activity, drought, ethnic conflict, industrial risks, road traffic injuries and other environmental risks, as well as a periodic influx of refugees from neighbouring countries. Malnutrition remains a concern, with 31.7% of children under 5 suffering from chronic malnutrition at the national level. The rate of malnutrition is particularly high (over 44%) in the North and Far North regions.

Medical facilities in Cameroon are extremely limited. Even in large cities, emergency care and hospitalization for major illnesses and surgery are hampered by the lack of trained specialists, outdated diagnostic equipment, and poor sanitation. Medical services in outlying areas may be completely non-existent. Doctors and hospitals often require immediate payment for health services in cash, and require family members or friends to locate and purchase any medical supplies they will need. Pharmacies in larger towns are well-stocked, but in other areas many medicines are unavailable. Counterfeit antimalarials are very commonly encountered. Chloroquine is NOT an effective antimalarial drug in Cameroon and should not be taken to prevent malaria in this region. Diarrheal illness including outbreaks of cholera are common in Cameroon. The greatest risk of traveler’s diarrhea is from contaminated food.

Crime is a serious problem throughout Cameroon. Armed highwaymen operate throughout the country. Armed banditry is common in the border areas with the Central African Republic. Carjackings, muggings, robberies and petty theft occur in the capital city, Yaoundé, and in the regional cities of Douala, Kribi and Maroua. In Yaoundé, the suburbs of la Briquetterie, Mokolo and Mvog-Ada are particularly dangerous.

Internet-based crime in Cameroon is escalating rapidly, and everyone, including businesses and other institutions, should be extremely skeptical of any financial transactions that involve sending money for goods, services, or adoptions. Crimes against property, such as carjacking and burglaries, have often been accompanied by violent acts and resulted in fatalities. All foreigners are potential targets for theft with possible attendant violence. Armed banditry has been a problem throughout all ten regions in Cameroon. It is not uncommon for a uniformed member of the security forces to stop motorists on the pretext of a minor or non-existent violation of local motor vehicle regulations in order to extort small bribes.

There have been many crimes involving public transportation. Taxis can be dangerous; U.S. Embassy personnel cannot use taxi cabs in Cameroon. Taxis in Cameroon function more like a U.S. bus system, with drivers stopping along the road to pick up additional passengers as long as there is space left in the vehicle. Taxi drivers and accomplices posing as passengers often conspire to commit serious crimes including rape, robbery, and assault. The risk of street and residential crime is high. Incidents often involve gangs, home invasions, and kidnapping. Periodic efforts by authorities in Yaoundé to clear streets and public spaces of illegally constructed homes and market stalls can become confrontational, and may contribute to surges in criminality as these very modest homes and businesses are destroyed.

Armed highway bandits (most notably in border areas); poorly lit and maintained roads; hazardous, poorly maintained vehicles; and unskilled, aggressive, and intoxicated drivers all pose threats to motorists. Attacks and accidents are most common outside major towns, especially in the regions bordering Chad and the Central African Republic, but occur in all areas of the country. Armed robbery at sea and piracy in coastal areas remains a threat. While mostly occurring at sea, criminal groups have also conducted armed raids against lucrative coastal targets including banks. Heightened security measures by the government begun in 2009 have reduced the number of attacks.

Cameroon's road networks, both paved and unpaved, are poorly maintained and unsafe at all times of the year. Drivers frequently ignore road safety rules. There are few road and traffic signs, and speed limits are neither posted nor enforced. Vehicles are poorly maintained and there is no mechanism or requirement to inspect them for roadworthiness. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards, especially at night. Buses and logging trucks travel at excessive speed and are a constant threat to other road traffic. During the rainy season, many roads are barely passable even with four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Travelers on roads near the borders with the Central African Republic and Chad should ensure that they have adequate vehicle fuel, cooking fuel, food, and water for several days, as well as a reliable means of communication, such as a satellite or cell phone, or radio.

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