Cameroon Link has discussed the way forward for the improvement of maternal and child health in Africa with Bruno Olierhoek who is the Administrator Director General of Nestle in the Central Africa Region. Also present during the exchange meeting on the 18th June, 2013 were Cyrille Kemgne in charge of medical operations, Armelle Bakoga, Field Operations Manager, Evelyne Kambou, the Nutrition, and Richard Dongue, Director of communication and public affairs. Cameroon Link was represented by the President and Executive Director, James Achanyi-Fontem.
Bruno Olierhoek is a Dutch citizen who took office in Cameroon last December 2012 after serving in Asia for a number of years, before moving to the Central Africa region with Nestle head office in Douala. Bruno Olierhoek used the opportunity to answer exchange on the new policies of Nestle, while addressing the opportunities and challenges of nutrition, water and rural development facing the Central and West Africa regions.
The Nestle top level administrator said, for a company like Nestle to be successful in the long term and create value for its shareholders, it must also create value for the society served. He described his company as a global leader in nutrition, health and well-being, through its commitment to address key issues of sustainable development, by taking economic and social contributions to communities where it operates.
He emphasized that food and nutrition are the basis of health. As the world’s leading nutrition, health and wellness company, Bruno Olierhoek believes that the future of Nestle lies in helping people to eat healthier diets. He explained that using their science-based approach, the company is helping to improve nutrition, addressing deficiency in vitamins and minerals at one end of the spectrum and obesity at the other.
One of the important goal of the company is to generate greater awareness, knowledge and understanding among consumers through clear and responsible communication. In the case of Cameroon, Nestle continues to improve the availability of affordable micro nutrient-fortified foods, especially those targeting lower-income consumers in the northern part of the country, where emergency situations are re-occurring every year. Most of the mothers and infants suffer from micro nutrient deficiencies.
It focuses on key consumer needs including data on micro nutrient deficiencies obtained in collaboration with local health experts and authorities of the ministry of public health. A greater part of the population is now capable of increasing their iron intake at low cost through collaborative ventures with the government. The populations in Cameroon and other countries of Central and West Africa are currently facing widespread micro nutrient deficiencies.
The Cameroon population is suffering from portable water crisis and this will continue for several decades considering the effects of climate change. We all understand that the quality and availability of water resource is critical to life and the production of food. The company is investing in community development water supply projects, because without good portable water its products will not attained the expected wellness results, either for the mother or the child.
Water scarcity is a serious reality in many parts of Cameroon, especially in the three northern regions. The ever-expanding demand for water by Cameroon’s growing and increasingly urbanized population, combined with the impacts of climate change policies and responses, it remains obvious that water is of increasing strategic importance for business and economic prosperity. In the north of Cameroon, livelihood, human health and entire ecosystems are permanently under threat.
The reason for increasing dialogue is because by 2030, demand for water is forecast to be 50% higher than today, and withdrawals could exceed natural renewal by over 60 %, resulting in water scarcity for a third of the world’s population. With more than two-thirds of all water being withdrawn by agriculture, food security is also at stake if governments are not able to solve the world’s water crisis. This simply means that water crisis is a global issue.
In the Far North region of Cameroon, women and children do long treks of over 10 kms to collect or carry water. The difficulties are that very often, there is no access to improved water sources and no access to adequate sanitation.
A third vital angle of the new policy of Nestle is the involvement in rural development, because the overall well-being of farmers, rural communities, small entrepreneurs and suppliers is intrinsic to the long-term success of rural development. This is referred to the process of improving the quality of life and the economic well-being of people living in relatively isolated and sparsely populated areas.
The company aims to ensure thriving communities and farmers while respecting natural capital by working at both the farm and community levels to improve on yields, safeguard incomes, contribute to investment and make a difference in people’s quality of life, while driving social and environmental improvements through responsible sourcing activities.
Bruno Olierhoek concluded by telling Cameroon Link that Nestle has value for society. The value is express by the advice and technical assistance to farmers striving for greater yields, higher quality crops, lower resource use, increased income, employment and economic development opportunities.
The company sources a number of raw materials, including cocoa, coffee, maize and cassava directly from farmers, while purchasing others through trade channels. These activities drive sustainability and create shared value through the application of best agriculture practices, encompassing environmental, social and economic dimensions. By working closely with farmer cooperatives, it reduces the complexity of the supply chain, eliminates the need for middlemen, increase farmers’ incomes and improves the quality of the company’s raw materials.
It would be recalled that in November 2012, Cameroon Link organized an exchange workshop on the conflict of interest to question actions identified during monitoring of the code on marketing infant formulas across the territory. Serge Dzeukou of Nutrition Institute based in Accra, Ghana reiterated the fact that the Cameroon national code is not strong enough and monitoring strategies are weak. Accompanied by Armelle Bakoga, Field Operations Manager, it was revealed that mothers do not give enough time for verifying the products and reading the usage instructions on the packages. Some competing companies from Asia flood the market with uncontrolled infant products sold at very cheap prices. Labeling of infant formula products has been found to be a big problem, especially as the age limits are not respected by most companies producing the products in Asia. On the whole, Nestle is open to dialogue and positive exchanges for the protection of the world's mothers and babies. People working in Nestle are also mums and dads.
Within the scope of the World Breastfeeding Week 2013 and the on-going community of learning programme, Cameroon Link will focus attention on mother and child health promotion, by organizing community educative talks for mother support groups, production of programmes on community radio to educate the young girl child and teen mothers, organise training on the code and share information from the first World Breastfeeding conference. Flyers, pamphlets, kits and other materials produced are destined for distribution during mass information and sensitization events across Cameroon.
Mabiama Gustave, Nutrition lecturer and Counsellor of the Advanced Teachers Training College for Technical Education at the University of Douala is conducting a study in Cameroon on labelling, formulae composition and the national legislation. The investigation concerns the first and second ages milk packs. The study will also focus on the critical study of the boxes labelled and verification of compliance with Cameroon standards, the quality control of boxes in comparison to the label, content and standards.
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.