Yaoundé, Cameroon—Pandemics such as malaria, diarrhea and other hygiene related diseases are hindering the implementation of an Italian government-funded program against malnutrition and anemia in toddlers in Cameroon, say UNICEF officials.
Jeanne Edjegue of UNICEF told reporters at a press briefing in Yaoundé April 28 that this is one of the conclusions deduced from feedback provided by community agents involved in the implementation of the pilot phase of the program in the North and South regions of Cameroon most hit by malnutrition and anemia.
The program dubbed ‘Programme de Fortification Almentaire a Domicile et de Promotion de l’Alimentation du Nourisson et du Jeune Enfant’ in French, entails the distribution of free nutritive supplements otherwise known as micronutrients, to nursing mothers for children between the ages of 6 to 23months.
The nutritive powder added into cooked food and given to children 30 minutes later is called VitaMin. It contains 15 vitamins, zinc and mineral salts that prevent diarrhea.
|Packet of VitaMin Micronutrients|
Andre Tonga, a nutritionist from the Ministry of Public Health told reporters at the briefing that parents are advised not to feed children suffering from malaria, diarrhea and even acute malnutrition with VitaMin. He said it is not a treatment for any disease and that even children suffering from acute malnutrition would continue to suffer if parents attempt to treat them with VitaMin.
Edjegue of UNICEF stressed that the product was an emergency measure to curb malnutrition and the prevalence of anemia among children between the ages of 6 and 23 months. She said nursing mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their children till they are 6months old before they begin feeding them with food enriched with VitaMin.
She admitted that children in Cameroon suffer from malnutrition not because of lack of food but because of poor feeding patterns. UNICEF is also engaged in helping parents to master proper feeding patterns for children, so that the distribution of nutritive supplements would no longer be necessary in a near future, Edjegue said.
She also said: “We have decided to reinforce the fight against malaria and promote WASH (Water, hygiene and sanitation) programs in order to ease the implementation of the program. We continue to encourage citizens to use treated mosquito nets for the right purpose and not for fishing”.
Between January and April 2016, the first 173,859 sachets of the product have been distributed to households in the health districts earmarked for the pilot phase of the program which started in 2014 with research findings, and is scheduled to end in January 2017.
The beneficiaries include the Ngong, Pitoa, Golombe and Bibemi health districts.
|Nursing mothers in the Minawao Camp in Far north Cameroon, 2015|
Reporters were told the two regions selected for the pilot program were observed to be representative of the entire country situation.
Parents who are already benefiting from the program are said to have testified that the supplement boost their children’s strength, appetite, growth, happiness and alertness.
The decision of UNICEF in the implementation of the program in collaboration with the public health ministry, are based on the most recent available statistic on the prevalence of malnutrition and anemia in Cameroon, which statistics date as far back as 2011.
Prevalence Rate Of Malnutrition
According to the records, 60% of children between the ages of 6 to 23 months in Cameroon suffer from anemia; a third of the 122 of 1000 children who die in Cameroon before their fifth birthday die of malnutrition related diseases.
The North region has 40.2 % and 68.2 % prevalence rate of malnutrition and anemia respectively while the South region has a recorded percentage of 33.1 % and 73.6 %.
The other regions would benefit from the program only after a successful pilot phase in the North and south regions.
Other regions severely hit by anemia include the South West region with 60.5 %, Adamawa with 61.9 %, far north region 63.5%, and the east region with 66.8% prevalence rate.
By Mbom Sixtus in Yaounde