Thesis subject

Characterising the impact of living on the street on health behaviours and infectious disease burden in Cameroonian youth

What are the health problems, social, environmental and health behaviour characteristics prevalent among Cameroon youths on the street?

Up to tens of millions of children are considered street children in the world. Street children are children who live (stay) on the street and are experiencing poverty, homelessness or both. The presence of street children in Cameroon, especially in cities like Douala and Yaoundé is undeniable. The actual numbers of street children in Cameroon is not known. These children are considered to be vulnerable children because of their poorly defined status. Increase in crime wave in major cities in Cameroon has been linked by the government to a rise in the number of street children. This makes the phenomenon of street children a public health concern. In Cameroon, street children are referred to ‘nangamboko’, ‘street kids’, ‘beggars’, ‘thieves’ etc.; names which generally indicate the stigma attached to being homeless.

The life of street children is characterised by an exposure to various health hazards including infectious diseases, poor environmental conditions, sexual predators, improper and insufficient food and social stigmatisation. Few studies have addressed the plight of street children in Cameroon and none to the best of our knowledge has investigated the burden of infectious diseases in this group of people or identified the coping strategies that children of the street put in place to survive.

In this proposed study, we aim to identify, analyse and describe the infectious diseases burden, social, environmental and health behaviour characteristics prevalent among street children in Cameroon as a step towards the development of appropriate intervention strategies geared towards improving their wellbeing.