6 August 2012

Cameroon: Coping Without Social Security

John A, a former worker living in Yaounde says he has become a farmer in a bid to put food on his table as well as have a token to buy some basic necessities for his family. When his mates talk about social security, he does not have anything to say because he does not know what social security is all about. This clearly indicates that John is one amongst the multitude of Cameroonians who are not enjoying any social security benefit from their former employer or the government.

John, just like some Cameroonians, does not enjoy any social insurance, retirement benefits and other basic securities irrespective of contributions to specific insurance programs as it is the case in developed countries. Mary R is one of those who gets a check of FCFA 100,000 each month as retirement benefits. The 74 year-old-former nurse pays some FCFA 50,000 as rent for her apartment in Douala in the Littoral Region. That leaves her with some FCFA 50,000 for food, utilities and other expenses, including medical bills. "It takes a lot of management to cope with daily needs," says Mary. She goes after things that are cheap. Mary is fortunate she does not have a particular illness that requires costly medications. "I think the Good Lord looks over me" Mary concludes.

John A says if those who collect social security benefits can complain about satisfying their needs, what about him who does not have any financial source since he stopped doing a formal job ten years back. Today, agriculture and trading of foodstuffs are part of John's life to survive. Pauline M is one of those living on her bank savings while on retirement. Without a social security benefit, each month, she withdraws money from her bank account to satisfy her everyday needs such as feeding, house rents as well as other basic necessities. Pauline's fear is what becomes of her when she must have withdrawn all the money she has in her bank account. Some people have used their savings to set up income generating activities due to lack of social security. Others depend on "njangi" houses or the help of family members when they are in difficulties.

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