Children suffering chronic malnutrition in the eastern province of Cameroon
According to information provided by the Nutrition Focal Point in the Regional Public Health Department for the Eastern Province, the situation is grim. “Surveys conducted by UNICEF in 2018 indicate that 35.4 percent of children are suffering from chronic malnutrition, resulting in serious growth stunting among them. It should further be noted that global acute malnutrition stands at 2.5 percent. In the light of these figures, the challenges in helping local communities to reverse this trend are enormous and the public authorities need all sectors to support them in ensuring guaranteed nutrition for children during at least the first 1,000 days of life,” reports Dr Osé Nchanje.
The Mayor of the border commune of Garoua-Boulai states, “My greatest regret is that the local population has been unable to access food aid from the development partners in all these last few years and, what’s more, our commune has still not been involved in nutrition activities. The refugees are currently not receiving any food support at all. Everyone is getting by as best they can. The empowerment process has commenced without the commune being involved. We therefore think that, with this workshop, we will have the necessary and appropriate elements to better understand the subject moving forward”.
Around 30 locally-elected representatives that make up the municipal executive of this commune, along with leaders of civil society organisations, attended the Bertoua meeting. All, or nearly all, were agreed in saying that the issue is of fundamental importance to well-being and sustainable development.
In reality, the public authorities and some development partners are making progress in several areas but much still remains to be done. Despite this progress, there still remain enormous gaps in the nutrition actors’ capacities to mobilise and form a united front, particularly the key actors. It should be noted that, over the last few years, as lead agency for the civil society platform, Helen Keller International (HKI) has facilitated my work and the platform’s logistics, the members and actions of which expanded over the 2013-2015 period. The Sun Scaling Up Nutrition movement, which initiated the Bertoua meeting, wants to eradicate malnutrition in all its forms.
”We hope that the participants in this meeting will master the fundamentals of nutrition. In terms of major expectations, the mayors’ letter of commitment to institutionalise planning and budgeting for nutrition-sensitive local development projects in the communes is worthy of note,” mentioned Michel Hendji Yoya, Deputy Director (HKI) in Cameroon.
And, unsurprisingly, at the end of the discussions on 18 January 2019, an action plan was presented for each commune attending on how to create Sun Communal Committees, along with a breakdown for each village. A network was also established of Eastern Province Mayors who are committed to Sun’s theme, together with a participatory action plan for the next six months.