Fighting Malnutrition: Government and WFP make Strides

The Government of Cameroon and the World Food Programme (WFP) are poised to reduce malnutrition and improve the availability of nutritious diets in Cameroon.

This decision is contained in the results of the “Fill the Nutrient Gap (FNG) Cameroon” study carried out this 2021.

Context of FNG Cameroon

The FNG study was prompted by the existence of malnutrition in Cameroon in spite of the efforts put in by Governemnt and its partners.

Problems like stunting and wasting, multiple micronutrient deficiencies (especially of iron in women and children) and overweight in urban areas and affluent groups all point to the problem of malnutrition.

In order to check the situation and encourage healthy feeding, the Technical Secretariat for the Interministerial Committee for the Fight Against Malnutrition under the office of the Prime Minister established the “Fill the Nutrient Gap” task force in 2020.

The technical expertise of the World Food Programme (WFP) was sought in order to ensure the success of the FNG study.

After a series of analysis, the study effectively took off in the early part of 2021.

Findings of FNG Study

The FNG task force came up with the following as findings:

About 48% of Cameroonians cannot afford a diet that meet their nutritional requirements. Moreover, 24% cannot afford a diet that meets just their energy needs.

There is a strong correlation between non-affordability of nutritious diets and stunting in Cameroon. In this regard, regions with the highest rates of non-affordability of nutritious diets have the highest rates of stunting.

The cost of a nutritious diet varies across the country and is estimated at between 30,000 to 45, 000 FCFA per month in a household of five persons. Due to high levels of poverty however, many households are not able to afford nutritious diets.

The nutritional needs of adolescent girls and pregnant and lactating women nutrient-dense foods containing iron and folic acid which come from costly foods which many cannot afford.

Only 40% of children under six months are exclusively breastfed following WHO recommendations and only 11% of those aged 6 to 23 months receive a minimal acceptable diet.

The agricultural production system in the country is underdeveloped hence limited availability of nutritious foods.

Regions with conflict and internally displaced persons disrupt livelihoods and food systems.

Many sectors need to put hands on deck to contribute towards providing sustainable solutions to improving on nutritious diets in the country.

Recommendations towards Reducing Malnutrition

Health Sector

Strengthen multiple micronutrient and iron and folic acid supplementation for women and adolescent girls.

Design nutrition education programmes to promote healthy diets that include nutrient-dense fruit, vegetables and animal source foods.

Reinforce initiatives to promote breastfeeding as the foundation of good nutrition for infants and young children.

Plan reallocation of financial resources so as to minimise mortality, stunting and wasting over ten years.

Education Sector

Implement an Integrated National Programme of School Nutrition and Hygiene in all schools.

Develop normative documents on school feeding to include nutritious vegetables in school meals.

Agriculture and Livestock Sector

Strengthen programmes to diversify production and increase supply of nutritious foods in markets especially livestock, poultry, fish and milk. This should be accompanied by communications on consumption of nutritious foods especially by vulnerable individuals.

In regions where a nutritious diet is least affordable, roll out regional food security and livelihood programmes which integrate nutrition based on locally available foods.

Create health recipes from local foods and promote them through community education.

Infrastructure and Energy

Prioritise investments and development of infrastructure and Energy for production, transportation, processing and marketing of nutritious foods to reduce post-harvest losses.

Fortification, Private Sector and Trade

Develop rice fortification I addition to existing fortified foods.

Development of locally produced fortified complementary foods targeting children aged 6 to 23 months.

Social Protection and Gender

Build capacity and provide nutrition education for social workers and managers of programmes responsible for the supervision of women, children and socially vulnerable groups.

Sensitise communities on essential family abd dietary practices as well as fight against harmful cultural practices like early marriage.

Multisectorial Measures

Implement a results-monitoring framework for the Interministerial Committee for the Fight Against Malnutrition based on this FNG study.

Creation of a Nutritionist Corps within the public service.

Improve nutrition data collection and sharing of national surveys to ensure nutrition goals and monitoring are considered.

Partner with media and well-known celebrities in Cameroon to create social campaigns and messages on healthy and nutritious diets.

Eleanor Ayuketah Ngochi

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