Some 25 Cameroon journalists and Foreign news correspondents attended a one-day workshop on health reporting focused breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding, hygiene and sanitation. The workshop was coordinated by the head of the UNICEF Communication Unit, Laure Bassek. She was accompanied by Dr. Jeanne Ejigui, who coordinates Young Child Protection activities at UNICEF Cameroon, Claire Soppo of UNICEF C4D unit and two senior health techincians from the health promotion department of the ministry of public health, Mahop Esther and Mahamat Ngede Marlyse.
Presentations centred on briefing of journalists on the theme of the World Breastfeeding Week 2013 theme focused on breastfeeding support, close to mothers. The received a run down on why the breastfeeding week is celebrated each year, the value and relevance of the theme this year with insistence of exclusive breastfeeding considering that the rate remains around 20% since 2006.
The connection of mothers’ nutrition and breastfeeding, principal activities organised in Cameroon with a breastfeeding caravan taking off on the 18th November to the 4th December covering four regions of Cameroon, East, Adamaoua, North and Far North concluded the training sessions. These regions of Cameroon have acute maternal and infant nutrition problems of different categories.
Claire Soppo to participants at the workshop that the caravan with focus on the involvement of the tradition leaders, administrative authorities, nutrition NGOs and health delivery agents on the challenges of malnutrition promotion in Cameroon and the best practices.
The reasons for involving the traditional leaders, Claire Soppo explained, is because they understand the culture of their communities, they are care takers of the traditions that influence political decisions that lead to behaviour change of populations. The traditional leaders have the power od persuasion of the communities and have the support of the populations.
The participants will be guided during the caravn on the advantages of adaptation of essential family positive practices, mobilise proximity community radios to produce at least three programmes with the participation of all the stakeholders mentioned above as a community learning process.
The local authorities will be sensitised on how to prevention malnutrition within their jurisdictions through the promotion of good practice, hygiene and sanitation. At the end of the caravan, each traditional leader, administrative authority, senator, parliamentarian, municipal councillor and leader of civil society organisation would be required to mobilise the population at different levels to get involved and adopt good practices through special interventions.
In a presentation prepared by Dr. Jeanne Ejigui, it was said that the world breastfeeding week is an opportunity to support mothers to practice optimal breastfeeding of their babies. It is also an opportunity to furnish peer educators with appropriate relevant information on the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.
The key messages from UNICEF were shared with the journalists before an exciting and very instructive session on the the national code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in Cameroon. The journalists laude the effort of the government through the ministry of public for putting a place a national code which could serve as a tool for monitoring trends, The same journalists regretted that the Cameroon national code is toothless and needs to be improved on. On violations, it was observed that rampant incidents have been reported but unfortunately, Cameroon lacks a monitoring institution that could report violations and even follow up infringements in court. As a final observation, it was recommended that Cameroon is a bilingual country and needs to publish an English version of the national code when the contradictory articles would have been revised and a ministerial order of application signed and published.
In a concluding remark, the President of the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, James Achanyi-Fontem lauded the openness of the participants in highlighted witnesses in the Cameroon government strategy, while requesting that they should not loss hope, because change is a gradual process. He called on the journalists to become the market watch dogs and paly the role of code monitors, because the government and formulae productions companies have humane staff composed of fathers and mothers also. He ended by telling the journalists that exclusive breastfeeding is a child right which must be respected by mothers.
The workshop was inscribed as part of the activity sheet of the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA. After the training, a last tripartite session grouping top level authorities of the ministry of public health, UNICEF and FECABPA administrative council was organised to exchange on the platform of collaboration.
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.