Cameroon Minister of Public Health Worried about Low Breastfeeding Rates
Cameroon Celebrated WBW from August 24- 31, 2012By Cameroon Link, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cameroon Minister of Public Health, His Excellency, Andre Mama Fouda, has called on women attached to the WHO/UNICEF recommendation to breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first 6 months and to continue breastfeeding thereafter with complimentary feeding up to 24 months and beyond. He was speaking during the launching of the celebration of the World Breastfeeding Week on the 24th August 2012 at the Biyem Assi - Yaoundé district hospital. The official ceremony was attended by ministers of women’s empowerment and the family, representatives of UN Agencies in Cameroon including WHO and UNICEF. Activities were plan for one full week in all regions following the national mass event in the nation’s capital in the presence of over 5.000 actors during from all sectors of the comunity. Ahead of the event, preparatory sharing workshops were organised at the department for health promotion on the 10th and 24th July, 23rd August, 2012 coordinated by the Sub Director of Food and Nutrition, Okala Georges. Participants outlined six points which included a feedback from the WBW 2011 and exchanged views on the theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2012, “Understanding the past, planning for the future.”
The Executive Director of Cameroon Link, James Achanyi-Fontem, told the audience at the ceremony place that over 40 national organisations involved in child rights and infant feeding issues reached over 20.000 mothers in 2011. He lamented on the fact that breastfeeding rates are as low as 20 %. He called for the integration of breastfeeding in the national nutrition programme expected to take off from 2013. Achanyi-Fontem, who is also the chair of the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, appreciated the accuracy of reports presented which highlighted all out comes and difficulties encountered during the celebration of past World Breastfeeding Weeks like the lack of enough sensitization materials and funding for social mobilisation and community outreach of the populations.
Looking at the theme for WBW 2012, "Understanding the past, planning the future”, it was made public that World Breastfeeding Week was 20 years old already, while the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding launched by WHO and UNICEF in 2002 celebrated its 10th anniversary. The Executive Director of Cameroon Link and FECABPA, said it was an opportunity to access the achievements of the past 20 years, evaluate national policies and especially the 2005 Decree on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and its implementation, analyse the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats before planning for the future and bridging the gaps. To facilitate execution of the action plans submitted by the different nutrition associations, documents, T-shirts, exercise books, folders and sensitisation leaflets were distributed to the associations.
Infant and Young Child Feeding Association in Cameroon organisation a WBW 2012 village at the ceremony place in Biyem Assi Hospital to show case the activities and shared information and research documents on the breastfeeding trends in Cameroon, regionally and globally.
WBW 2012 SPECIFICITIESI. Background and Rationale
Since 1991, the international community has celebrated WBW from 1 to 7 August of each year. This event gives an opportunity for the Ministry of Public Health and its partners to raise awareness on the importance of breastfeeding for child survival and promotion of maternal health. Indeed, 20 years ago the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) launched its first World Breastfeeding Week under the theme of the “Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI)”. In celebrating this anniversary , it was the right time to take stock of what has happened during these years , celebrate successes and achievements and see what has not been done, to be able to plan the future better, and to support all women in their ability to feed their infants and young children and care optimally .
The DHS surveys conducted from 1991 to 2011 showed a marked increase in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding up to six months between 1991 and 2004. This was due to the implementation of the National Policy of Breastfeeding validated in 1994 by the Ministry of Public Health, community awareness and training of health personnel during past World Week of Breastfeeding (WBW ). The trends of Exclusive Breastfeeding in Cameroon recorded are as follows: 1991 = 7 % , 1998 = 12 % , 2004 = 24 % , 2006 = 21 % , 2011 = 20 %.
From the above you will note that there has been a regression from 2006 until 2011. The consequences of this decrease are numerous both for children, families and the community, as the heavy price is rated in terms of infant deaths and illnesses of children. 122 % of infant deaths occur according to the infant DHS - MICS IV.
In Cameroon, one in three deaths is due to poor practices of breastfeeding. To reverse the trend, we need to promote and encourage breastfeeding at community-based level with the interventions of fathers, mothers, youths and the community as a whole. There are local associations and international NGOs that support the health system by promoting infant and young child feeding. As part of the celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2012, emphasis was placed on promotional activities of breastfeeding within communities across Cameroon.
II. General Objective
Promotion of breastfeeding through community-based activities
III. Specific Objectives
1. Educate and sensitize communities, mothers and women of childbearing age on breastfeeding advantages to the mother and child.
2. Boost activities in the community to support all women in their practice of breastfeeding.
3. Inform the community that the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is a right of the mother and a right of the child. In short, it is a human right.
4. Strengthen advocacy with communities for strong action in favour of breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding.
5. Involving community volunteers and members of CBOs in the implementation of activities during World Breastfeeding Week.
IV. Expected results
1. Communities, mothers and women of childbearing age are sensitized and aware of advantages of breastfeeding.
2. Activities within communities in favour of supporting women in their project of breastfeeding are driven.
3. The community is informed that the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is a right for the child , mother and above all, a human right;
4. The plea for strong actions are taken in favour of Breastfeeding is enhanced.
V. Methodology Execution Strategy
1. Animation of mothers' groups and communities on breastfeeding through educative talks.
2. Production and distribution of documentaries on breastfeeding;
3. Awareness campaigns through the media and opinion leaders
4. Animations of radio quiz and organisation of national local languages broadcasts on WBW;
5. Organisation of Debates, open door discussions / exchanges.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.