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Malnutrition, still a chronic health concern in Cameroon’s Far North region

Hadidja and her twins at the Nutrition centre in Zamay, Maroua (c)Marriane Enow Tabi

Health experts say malnutrition in children is still a severe health problem in the Far North Region of Cameroon.

The health experts took turns in making the remark in Maroua recently, during a guided tour around UNICEF-supported health facilities and nutrition centres in Maroua, in the bid to evaluate the organisation’s actions and advocacy campaign against malnutrition in Cameroon.

During the Maroua tour, the protracting situation, incarnated by soaring numbers of malnourished kids, made the experts to hem the region in a malnutrition red-list.

According to official statistics, out of a total of 37,114 children with severe acute malnutrition who were admitted to 517 UNICEF-supported health facilities in the three Northern regions between June 2016 and April 2017, a vast majority of 27,507 of these children were admitted in the Far North region alone.

Hababa Abdou, a young mother, in one of the UNICEF-supported health facility, praised the organisation for helping to reverse the agonising plight of her eleven months old malnourished baby

The Far North Region has been in the red-list for a long time.  We have evidence from our latest surveys which indicate stunting and acute malnutrition,” says a Danbe Flaubert, a Regional Focal Point for Nutrition in Maroua.

Among the root causes of malnutrition in the region, Flaubert, suggest that ignorance and poverty stands tall. “Women are ignorant of what they should eat to keep themselves and their babies healthy”.  He added that majority of women were still very ignorant about breast feeding as the best form of child nutrition.

Another health expert in the region, Dr. Bissemou said, the harsh climate with short rainy season breeds an environment for poverty. Dr Bissemou’s point was corroborated by Hadidja, a 19 year old mother of twins at the therapeutic nutrition centre in Mokolo. She explains that the long dry season in the region makes food supplies to thin out and become more expensive. “Sometimes we go for a whole month without vegetables,” adds Hadidja. The outcome is endemic malnutrition sustained by the widespread consumption of diets deficient in vitamins, minerals and energy providers.

To stem down the tides of malnutrition in the region, another Medic, Tambasho Azizu, District Medical Officers of Mokolo, said exclusive breast feeding is the best form of nutrition for children of zero to six months and even more. Breast feeding is recommended as the best source of energy and nutrition to babies. For one thing, it reduces diaorrhea-related death and child mortality caused by respiratory effects. Breast milk, it is stated, is always clean and ready for use.

The health experts equally acclaimed UNICEF response to the urgent need of children affected by severe acute malnutrition in the regions. To them, the therapeutic milks and essential drugs procured by the organisation under the KFW funding, is helping to manage an already escalating situation.

But observers say until all stakeholders are involved, the plight of malnourished children will continue to deteriorate.




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