Thursday, April 23, 2009

Infant Mortality Decline Not Enough

Bill Gates Speaks On Childhood Deaths
By James Achanyi-Fontem
Director of Publication
Cameroon Link
In his first 2009 annual letter, Bill Gates spoke about the work at his foundation: what has gone well, what hasn’t, and what the foundation is learning along with their partners.
In the letter, it is revealed that over the past 50 years childhood deaths have dropped dramatically. For example, in 1960, when there were nearly 110 million children born, almost 20 million children under 5 died. In 2005, when more than 135 million children were born, fewer than 10 million children under 5 died. Bill Gates acknowledged the statistics is one of the most amazing. The number of children born went up, while the number who died was cut in half. Two things caused this huge reduction in the death rate. First, incomes went up, and with that increase, nutrition, medical care, and living conditions improved. The second factor is that even where incomes did not go up, the availability of life-saving vaccines reduced the number of deaths. For example, measles accounted for 4 million children’s deaths in 1990, but fewer than 250,000 in 2006.
Despite this progress, 10 million children dying is still 10 million too many. Each death is a tragedy. In the United States young people dying is so rare. Many of the children dying are in the developing countries. It would be a huge breakthrough to cut that 10 million in half again, and Bill Gates believes can be done in the next 20 years.
What kills children under 5?
There are a few diseases, like diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia, that cause over half of the deaths. The key to eliminating these conditions is the invention of a handful of new vaccines and getting them into widespread usage.
When Melinda and Bill first started their giving in the late 1990s, their focus was on reproductive health rather than childhood deaths. The idea behind was that they wanted to give mothers the tools to limit their family size to what they wanted would have a catalytic effect by reducing population growth and making it easier to feed, educate, and provide jobs for the children who were born.
But in 1998, they were surprised when a newspaper article showed that only a few diseases cause most childhood deaths and how much little money was being invested in creating and providing vaccines for these diseases. A particular type of diarrheal disease—rotavirus—was killing over 400,000 children each year. How could a disease they had never heard of get so little attention and kill so many children? Bill and Melinda sent the article to their father and asked him to look into how they could help.
A surprising but critical fact they learned was that reducing the number of deaths actually reduces population growth.
The strong connection between infant mortality rates and fertility rates
Contrary to the Malthusian view that population will grow to the limit of however many kids can be fed, in fact parents choose to have enough kids to give them a high chance that several will survive to support them as they grow old. As the number of kids who survive to adulthood goes up, parents can achieve this goal without having as many children.
This means that improved health is critical to getting a country into the positive cycle of increasing education, stability, and wealth. When health improves, people have smaller families and the government has more resources per person, so improving nutrition and education becomes much easier. These investments also improve health, and a virtuous cycle begins that takes a country out of poverty.
It was this huge revelation that led to Melinda and Bill Gates expanding their focus from reproductive health to all of the major infectious diseases. Today the foundation’s Global Health Program, which accounts for about 50 percent of their total spending, focuses on 20 diseases. The top five are: diarrheal diseases (including rotavirus), pneumonia, and malaria—which kill kids most—and AIDS and TB, which kill adults most.
Ten years have passed since Melinda and Bill were shocked by the number of deaths and lack of focus on rotavirus. Unfortunately, the death toll has not yet been reduced. Two vaccines for rotavirus are now being used widely in rich countries. The foundation needs to get the vaccines into use in poor developing countries, but there are some significant challenges that have caused delays.
Each country wants to be sure that rotavirus is a big enough problem in their country to justify adding the rotavirus vaccine to the set of vaccines that their newborn children receive. They need additional funding, because a new vaccine costs over $20 (CFA 10.000) per child—sometimes much more. Usually this cost comes down to less than $1(CFA500), but only after several decades. A particular challenge for vaccines is that they need to be kept cold in refrigerators because they spoil if their temperature gets above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for very long. So adding a new vaccine, like one for rotavirus that needs a lot of refrigerator space requires increasing the refrigeration capacity at every stage of the entire delivery chain, including very remote areas that don’t have electricity. The foundation is working with the GAVI Alliance, and others to get a rotavirus vaccine into widespread use.
In the past eight years, GAVI has added a vaccine to prevent liver cancer (Hepatitis B) and one to prevent respiratory disease (Haemophilus influenzae type b) to the standard group of six vaccines in a large number of countries. Nothing on the planet saves children’s lives more effectively and inexpensively than vaccines. The foundation gives a time frame of six years within which it will have enough distribution to have cut the number of rotavirus deaths in half. This is an ambitious goal, but it’s one of the key steps to cutting the overall number of childhood deaths from 10 million to 5 million, according to Bill Gates.
At the foundation they are getting even more focused on their top health priority, which is helping to make sure that vaccines are developed and delivered to fight these diseases. With a handful of new vaccines, they should be able to save a year of a person’s life for well under $100 (CFA50.000). If the foundation wastes $500,000 (CFA250.000) they are wasting 5,000 years of life. This is the kind of trade-off governments in poor developing countries should consider when they decide which areas to get involved in and which grants to request from donors.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

FECABPA Calls For More Breastfeeding Support

2nd FECABPA AGM Holds In Douala
By Alice Ndeloh, COGESID Bonaberi
Health organisations (NGO, CBO and FBO) affiliated to the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, met in Douala on March 24, 2009 to evaluate activities of the national breastfeeding movement and to deliberate on a new action plan during its second annual general meeting. FECABPA was registered by the Cameroon government on the 10th December 2007 under the reference no. 00135/RDA/JO6/BAPP as a plat form for exchanges and negotiations between associations on the one hand, and between FECABPA and other partners.
During the 2nd annual general meeting, members deliberated on the WABA joint statement based on the workshop and Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting, GBPM, VII in Penang, Malaysia in October 2008. Participants endorsed WABA’s joint statement, with the initiation of its action plan for 2009/2010 within the context of the resolutions and recommendations of the GBPM VII 2008.
Delegates at the FECABPA AGM from AFFE, ASSF, COGESID, OPTIMEO, MALEO Santé +, NOLFOWOP, Alternative Santé, MUTSAN, FFF-C and Cameroon Link received highlights on the Men’s initiative and activity sheet, the current One Million Campaign launched by IBFAN Asia, WABA Global Forum 3 preparation in Quebec, Canada in 2010. A call for active preparation and participation when the time comes was made by the coordinator of WABA MWG.
Participants received WABA WBW notebooks carrying the beautiful photos of the entries for the world breastfeeding week competition 2008 under the theme “Mother Support: Going for the Gold”. It was made known that WABA received a total of 198 entries and many of them depicted various forms of support to the breastfeeding mother.
According to the editor’s note by the International Coordinator of WBW, Julianna Lim Abdullah, all were beautiful meaningful and touching pictures and the panel of judges had a difficult time selecting the ten winning photos. It is for this reason that WABA increased the prize money and twelve winning photos were selected.
The winning photos featured in the WABA WBW materials including action folders, poster and banner. To show case the photos in a notebook aimed at highlighting efforts by breastfeeding activists around the world and to encourage more to join in the protection, promotion and support movement. Those who received the notebooks in Cameroon expressed their thanks and gratitude to WABA to the continuous support their country activities.
During the plenary exchanges, emphasis was put on the promotion of mother support groups and how to consolidate achievements. An exhaustive report on the breastfeeding counseling training conducted by the ministry of public health to capacity leaders of infant and young child feeding associations in Cameroon. Mrs. Lissouck Marie Germaine of NOLFOWOP acknowledged that the sessions were interactive, diverse and rich in information learning content.
WBW 2009 Theme
Members of FECABPA were informed about the publication by WABA of the theme for the World Breastfeeding week 2009. The theme is “Breastfeeding – A Vital Emergency Response. Are You Ready?” The theme is explained in detail on the WABA WBW calendar 2009 distributed during the annual general assembly. Some members had already downloaded the calendar in English on the WABA web site.
Participants at the session made suggestions on doable actions within the period of preparation of the WBW while waiting for the coordination meetings held each year to harmonise action plans at the level of the ministry of public health.
Before the close of the annual general meeting, a financial report was presented and members invited to up date their contributions to assist the general secretariat function properly. Four new associations, notably AFFE of Mbalmayo, Maleo Santé + of Douala, Musan Bonassama, and Optimeo of Douala were co-opted into the federation. It was agreed that the next general meeting of FECABPA scheduled in June 2009 will be hosted by NOLFOWP Yaoundé. As the FECABPA annual general meeting ended, a sweet mother rushed into the maternity ward next door COGESID Health Centre in Ngwele-Bonaberi to deliver a baby girl. Mother and baby are reported doing well. Breastfeeding promotion activists are invited to open the FECABPA information blog site regularly for up dates the development of activities at the national and international levels.
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Friday, April 3, 2009

Cameroon Link Profile

Cameroon Link Men’s Initiative
Connecting you to “Not for Fathers Only”
Be Part of Mother Support E-newsletter
• Participate and tell your stories.
• Network and link with youth, men and women around the world.
• Be a catalyst and make the changes you want to see.
• Support mothers worldwide.
• Share experiences and learn from others.
• Where and how to reach mothers and babies around the world.
• Are there others like me?
• WABA MWG e-newsletter. Many individuals and organizations supporting fathers, mothers and families across the world subscribe to the newsletter.
• MWG e-newsletter is produced two times a year in English and French.
• Write to the newsletter about:
1. The Men’s Initiative Snap Shot
2. Father, Mother and Community Support
3. Infant and Young Child Feeding
4. Exclusive Breastfeeding/Resources
5. Calendar of events and conferences
6. Breastfeeding news around the world
7. Send feedback on your support group
If you have any story or news to share, please write to:
• Editor: James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator, WABA MWG
Email: or
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