Non-Communicable Diseases:The Unfamiliar Killer In Cameroon


Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), otherwise non-infectious diseases are increasingly becoming the leading cause of death among Cameroonian adults, a fact unknown to many.

According to Doctor Ngong Jacqueline Shaka, a Medical Doctor with the “PMI” Nkwen-Bamenda, hypertension, diabetes, strokes, cancers and other cardio vascular diseases are the most diagnosed NCDs in Cameroon.

It has become common to hear families talk and worry about the number of relatives struggling with one or more NCDs.

In Doctor Ngong’s words: “The prevalence of NCDs is on a steady rise in the country, just like in other Low and Middle Income Countries, especially within the aging population. The treatment is costly and most often cannot be afforded by the common man.”  What makes things further complicated is the irreversible nature of complications that often result from NCDs. They are often chronic, progressing quite slowly, expensive to treat and most often end up with the patient’s death, if not addressed early enough. NCDs are even more dreadful as most healthcare facilities in rural settings lack trained personnel to manage the diseases. “NCD patients in remote areas with very low access to medical attention often end up developing major health complications that end up accounting for their mortality,” Dr Ngong regretted.

In just five months, the Diabetes and Hypertension Clinic in Bamenda, treated over 1,000 patients. Among these category of diseases, cardiovascular infections are the most prevalent. Asthma, Stroke, Respiratory tract infections and heart attacks have become an unwanted guest to nearly every family. In a 2016 study, conducted by Kingue and colleaguesin several urban regions in Cameroon, some frightening findings were made. Hypertension occurrence was as high as 29.7 per cent, with a paradoxical low awareness rate of 14 per cent.  The study further indicates that 86 per cent of people who are hypertensive, are yet to know about their health condition.

Diabetes is also a highly prevalent cardiovascular disease in Cameroon. The 2017 National Survey revealed a prevalence rate of 5.9 per cent and a “very poor awareness rate.”

At the moment, the World Health Organisation estimates that 239,000 people die of Non Communicable Diseases each year in Cameroon. And about 70-75 per cent of people admitted in hospitals across the board are Non-Communicable Disease patients. 

According to Mr Mbiydzenyuy Ferdinant Sonyuy, a NCDs Advocate and Programme Manager for the Non-Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Programme of the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services, NCDs are not “contracted” like it is often said of other diseases. He says “there are about five major risk factors of NCDs; excessive use of alcohol, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, physical inactivity and stress.” This has been corroborated by Dr Ngong Jaqueline Shaka who emphatically states that “a sedentary lifestyle and poor eating habits are the predecessors of cardiovascular diseases”

Medics say a daily active lifestyle with regular physical exercise, proper dieting with less carbohydrates and saturated fats would keep NCDs away. In addition, both passive and active smoking walkout, moderate consumption of alcohol and animal proteins would guarantee the health of the kidneys. Mr Mbiydzenyuy advocates that on average, 10,000 steps a day will keep one healthy.

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