The representative of the minister of public health, Dr. Ondoa Mekongo, said the presence of WHO, UNICEF, Health workers, and civil society organisations at the official launching of the World Breastfeeding Week in Cameroon translates their engagement and love for the survival of children in Cameroon. He observed that the theme of this year’s celebration is an eye opener because only 2 out of 10 mothers breastfeed their babies within the first one hour after birth. 6 out of 10 mothers breastfeed their babies for the first time within the first 24 hours after delivery. Only 2 out 10 mothers breastfeed exclusively in the first six months after birth. This situation is preoccupying and calls for political action to reverse the tendency. If all mothers breastfed their babies normally, 1000.000 lives will be saved throughout the world.
Breastfeeding encourages contact between the mother and the baby during several hours of the day and it is the best way for promotion of attachment. It helps the mother to express her natural love to the baby, laying the base for love relationship and confidence between the parent and the child.
The government of Cameroon has taken a number of actions to promote infant and young child feeding. These included the decree instituting the national code for regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitute, national infant and young child feeding policy, the decision to accord two breastfeeding hours for the working mother, just to name a few. This is proof of the government’s engagement to improve on the wellbeing, protection and human rights of child in Cameroon.
Dr. Ondoa Mekongo recognized that these actions are realized with the support of international partners like WHO and UNICEF. However, he added, that much is still left to be realized in the area of breastfeeding and the nutrition of the young child in Cameroon. The current struggle is to increase breastfeeding rates and especially early initiation within the first one hour of the birth of a baby. The target is to increase breastfeeding rate to 50% by the year 2020.
He reminded health workers at all level of their specific roles for the achievement of the government’s objectives in relation to the promotion of optimal breastfeeding, the protection of expectant mothers and lactating mothers against marketing of breastmilk substitute influences that compromises well informed decisions of mothers.
To achieve the objectives, the health workers have to be trained to be able to carry out the duties correctly and encourage mother to start early initiation of breastfeeding. Nurses should promote permanent contact between the mother and the baby at all moments during their stay in the health facility.
Addressing the health civil society organisations, Dr. Ondoa Mekongo, encouraged members of FECABPA to remain united and prepare them to receive mothers within the community when they are discharged from the hospitals and clinic, so counseling can continue within the family and community circles.
The Cameroon government has put in place a new programme which is scaling up nutrition within global partnerships with international organisations from this year. The programme will include actions for the promotion of breastfeeding, fight against malnutrition, de-worming of children, fortification of foods at home through training of health workers and intensification of community level campaigns for social mobilization, information and sensitization. He ended by making a call for international support to the scaling up nutrition programme.
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.