Saturday, December 19, 2009


By James Achanyi-Fontem
Coordinator,IBFAN Cameroon
Authorities of the United Nation Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, have drawn the attention of the Ministry of Public Health in Cameroon to the importance and place monitoring of the International Code on the marketing of breastmilk substitute in the regulation and promotion of child survival.
The information filtered from a working session organised by the Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, on Thursday, 1oth December 2009 in Yaounde with the head of the communication service of the ministry and a senior journalist of Cameroon Tribune.
The UNFPA drew the attention of the minister to an article on activities organised by Cameroon Link (CAMLINK) following the training of trainers’ course by IBFAN Africa in Douala on the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative. The minister was informed that code monitoring was an alert system that keeps formula producers from health facilities, thereby giving the opportunity to breastfeeding mothers to remain attached to World Health Assembly regulations and recommendations by the World Health Organisation. Cameroon Tribune has earlier published a news investigation on company violations of the Cameroon national code issued as law on the 1st December 2005.
A formula production company during that period sponsored a workshop of paediatricians in Limbe and used the trade mark of Bledina to advertise the workshop in violation of articles of the international and national code on the promotion and marketing of breastmilk substitutes in the country.
The same company consolidated its violation with an advertorial in the Eden Newspaper of Wednesday, 9th December 9 – Monday, 14th December 2009. Cameroon Link had during the WBTi training called on the government to create a regulatory committee with the appointment of a national coordinator to check such lapses throughout the country.
In reaction to the flagrant violations world wide through scientific meetings and workshops, a UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative statement on formula company-funded study days was issued in the United Kingdom.
UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative had recently received several enquires regarding study days sponsored by formula milk industries. These days range from holding study days nutrition company institutes serving as bridges to reach health staff caring for babies within public and private.
The Baby Friendly Initiative requires that all health-care facilities seeking Baby Friendly accreditation adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Information on formula milks provided to health professionals in order to allow them to support mothers who do not breastfeed, should be scientific, factual and free from promotion.
Health professionals are the ideal conduit for promoting formula milk. They engender public trust and respect and have easy access to virtually all new mothers and babies. The ‘halo effect’ of having mothers associate the company brand with a health professional is highly valued. However, for this to happen, the companies need access to those health professionals. As recently, and in the last 10 years before the publication of the code, company representatives had free access to many health-care premises and they induced health professionals to attend their talks with hospitality and free materials.
The Cameroon Code forbids any penetration of health facilities by company delegates to advertise their brand and donate materials or organise meetings. The companies have now opted the indirect version of sponsoring activities of health professionals in very attractive tourism facilities as an incentive.
With increased support for breastfeeding in the health services, health professionals have gradually become much more aware of the real purpose of this ‘generosity’ and its negative effect on breastfeeding and efforts to support informed choice. Subsequently, much of this easy access to health professionals still has to be stopped in countries like Cameroon.
Sponsored study days are a highly effective mechanism for circumventing workplace controls on access by company representatives and so gaining direct access to health professionals. The study days no longer directly focus on breast and bottle feeding, which would only arouse suspicion, but rather are specialist in nature, focusing on, for example, allergy or growth, thus reassuring prospective participants of their legitimacy. Participants are asked to register for the study day, so providing the company with contact details for future promotional opportunities. At the event itself there are opportunities for introductions, closing statements, odd lectures by company representatives and promotional materials that can be given to everyone who attends. The result of this is health professionals who are highly aware of the company’s brand and product, informed of the product’s key selling points, in possession of company materials and possibly well disposed to the company providing them with ‘free’ education. If any of this is then passed on to parents, the company’s outlay can be justified to shareholders as being designed to increase profits.
The Baby Friendly Initiative standards do not expressly prohibit health professionals’ attendance at formula company study days. However, attendance is strongly discouraged. Any health professional considering attending such a day should ask themselves whether attendance is really necessary for their education, whether it is compatible with their Code of Conduct and responsibilities to implement best practice and what effect their attendance could have on the families they serve. For more information visit the Code Monitoring page at

Friday, December 18, 2009

MWG Happy New Year 2010 Greetings

Happy New Year 2010 Greetings!
WABA Men’s Working Group would like to wish you and your families a Happy and Healthy New Year 2010.
There is no time like now to honour the men and boys in your life, especially those who support mothers. We thank you for your commitment and support in 2009 and hope that you will continue to join WABA Men’s Working Group in our efforts to ensure that men live longer, healthier and happier lives in 2010 and beyond, while supporting breastfeeding mothers around the world.
Wishing you a Beautiful Season and a New Year of Peace and Happiness.

WABA Men’s Working Group

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Cameroon Gets WBTi Orientation Training

By Doualla Etongo Priscille
Cameroon Link Group
14 trainers have been oriented on the new WBTi in Cameroon. The orientation training preparation team received IBFAN Africa Consultant and Director of UniNutri Services, Pauline Kisanga, from Swaziland at the Douala International Airport on the 10th November at 19h30 from a timely South Africa Airlines Flight.
Pauline Kisanga, IBFAN Consultant designated as the principal facilitator and James Achanyi-Fontem, National Coordinator of IBFAN Cameroon Link Group acted as the country facilitator of the trainer of trainers WBTi workshop. Participants came from the government, public and private key nutrition NGO advocacy organisations. The selection of participants considered gender aspects with target groups involving men, women and youths in the learning process.
Training Package
The training package presentations on Power Point tackled all the relevant issues related to the starting of a WBTi in a country and the content included the following:
• The Global Strategy and objectives of the workshop
• Status of IYCF in Cameroon and the national perspective
• WBTI – A successful Initiative
• Tracking, Assessing and Monitoring of GSIYCF – South Asia/Africa ExperienceReading Exercise of the Green Book
• Interactive Discussions with Questions and Answers
• How to conduct a national assessment
• Understanding the indicators (1 – 15)
• Work in groups and presentation of work group reports
• Analysis of data, report writing and presentation (exploiting the samples of Asia country reports)
• How to develop recommendations for actions to bridge the gaps
• Work in groups on developing recommendations and presentation of work in groups
• Utilizing WBTi Information
• What is the web action in WBTi
• How to avoid conflict of interest at national level
• Action Plan for Cameroon and Way Forward
• Executive Budget Estimate

Welcome Address
The welcome address on the occasion of the opening of the 2-day orientation training workshop on the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative in Cameroon on the 12th and 13th November 2009 was made by the National Coordinator of Cameroon Link, James Achanyi-Fontem, who doubles as the Focal Point for IBFAN Cameroon Group and the President of the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA.
Mr. Achanyi-Fontem said, Cameroon was honoured to have the opportunity to welcome the orientation training workshop on the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) in Douala. He thanked Mrs. Joyce Chanetsa, the Regional Coordinator of IBFAN Africa who included Cameroon on the list of countries to benefit from the orientation training on the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiatiive (WBTi) and Mrs. Pauline Kisanga, Director of UniNutri , IBFAN RC Emeritus for accepting to come to Cameroon to capacitate and share her experiences with the Infant and Young Child Feeding advocates.
Under the guidance of the Ministry of Public Health secondary data was reached for preparation of the workshop using WHO/ UNICEF data and information to analysis the 15 key indicators of Cameroon’s trends so far documented. IBFAN Cameroon Group coordinator acknowledged that the training will assist in the expansion of breastfeeding protection, promotion and support work throughout Cameroon.
Presenting Pauline Kisanga, the former Regional Coordinator of IBFAN Africa, Mr. Achanyi-Fontem described her as an advocate ambassador of breastfeeding of Africa region. She has published several works including, “The Process for Successful Implementation of ILO Maternity Protection Convention 183 of 2000 at National Level: Africa Regional Experience of Step by Step Action” and “The Protection, Support, and Promotion of Breastfeeding in HIV: Policy Guidelines by IBFAN Africa”.
Pauline is special to Cameroon Link, because in her capacity as the former Regional Coordinator of IBFAN Africa and with the support of Baby Milk Action UK, Cameroon was co-opted and affiliated into the Anglophone and Lusophone IBFAN Africa Group in 2000. With her coaching and constant support, Cameroon Link grew from strength to strength and was recipient of the IBFAN Africa distinction in 2007 in Maputo, Mozambique during the 7th Regional Conference for its commitment and engaging support for the protection and promotion of breastfeeding in the continent as a whole and Cameroon in particular.
Cameroon Link today pilots the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, and the Men’s Initiative of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA, while remaining the Focal Point for the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa) in the country. At Cameroon Link, the slogan is, “Babies can’t wait”. Breastfeeding is a baby’s right and it should be on demand and exclusive for the first six months after delivery with complimentary feeding and continued breastfeeding up to 24 months and beyond. Cameroon Link remains more committed than before, especially as the 23rd November 2009 makes its 20th Anniversary.
This means that Cameroon Link celebrates its 20th anniversary with the new initiative, “The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi).” The data and information presented during the WBTi orientation training workshop were based on information collected from the Demographic Health Survey (DHS) in Cameroon, statistics from the ministry of public health, ministry of planning, programming and territorial development in Yaoundé, WHO, UNICEF and ILO sources.
It should be noted that comprehensive survey results are published in the DHS final reports approximately 8 – 12 months after the completion of fieldwork while standard reports are approximately 200 pages in length and include topics on household and respondent characteristics, fertility and family planning, maternal and child health, nutrition and HIV/AIDS.
The department for health promotion in the ministry of public health contributed through researched data as the policy and decision making channel within the frame work of its partnership with Cameroon Link Group that reports regularly on all its activities.
Cameroon’s key indicators collection is on-going for revision and publication in April 2010 after the survey on the rights of the child to food. As Cameroon joins the WBTi, it is observed by IBFAN Cameroon Link that there is net progress made already as it scores well in 12 of the 15 key indicator areas. The WBTi training brought to light the gaps and recommendations which will be published in the final report by December 15.

WBTI Training
During the WBTi orientation training workshop organized in Douala by the IBFAN Cameroon Focal Point with the support of IBFAN Africa regional office, it was observed that efforts have been made in the area of Infant and Young Child Feeding with the support of UNICEF. Though there is a net progress in the area of exclusive breastfeeding, statistics have to be collected regularly for up dates starting from the health facilities.

After the presentation of secondary data in Cameroon during the training, IBFAN Africa consultant, Pauline Kisanga spoke about the evolution of the GSIYCF since 2000, emphasizing on the fact that all countries that endorsed the WHO/WHA recommendations were requested to implement the strategy as national policy.
The GSIYCF was put in place to promote good practices and create supportive environment for the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding with complimentary feeding thereafter up to 24 months and beyond.
The strategy is based on the Innocenti declaration adopted in 1990 during an international meeting in Italy. One of the recommendations is that countries should put in place a national breastfeeding committee with the appointment of a national coordinator by the ministry of health.
With the frame work of the strategy, the ten steps to successfully breastfeeding is implemented, the international code is implemented, mothers and children are protected. The global strategy added more targets to the innocent declaration.
The Director of UniNutri Services insisted on the fact that exclusive breastfeeding should be recommended to mothers with complimentary feeding after six months to prevent malnutrition. Countries throughout the world are adopting national legislation she emphasized, adding that when WHO and the world Health Assembly (WHA) improves on policies, countries are required to also up grade their national policy with the involvement of all stake holders. According to the IBFAN Africa consultant, nutrition promotion goes with breastfeeding, which occupies 60 per cent on the agenda. For this reason, the government should create a national breastfeeding committee and appoint a national coordinator as recommended by the WHA and WHO.

IYCF Problems
• Many governments believe that breastfeeding is natural and that mothers should automatically breastfeed their children. This is a wrong perception of the issue, because even when the act is natural, the mothers have to be supported. In most cases, it is the man who purchases formula for the baby and not the mother. Fathers should be educated as well on the advantages of breastmilk through the creation of support groups throughout the country.
• Breastfeeding and HIV are not understood. Policy makers need to be informed on the advantages of breastfeeding and WHO recommendation. Data needs to be collected, because it is through the analysis of the data that decisions are made during discussion at meetings.
• Since all countries have endorsed the WHA/WHO policies and resolutions, countries just simply need to implement them, especially as malnutrition of infants has been rated as a public health concern.

What is WBTi ?
The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) started in Asia. Before the WBTi, countries were using the WHO IYCF monitoring and evaluation tool and the GLOPAR WABA tool. The new WBTi, is a combination of the WHO and GLOPAR tools to fill gaps which were identified in the previous tools. Many countries are already using the WBTi because it is a simple tool to track progress on the implementation of the Global Strategy. It helps for comparing progress in the different countries, considering the fact that all countries have been requested to monitor the progress of child survival regularly.
The trainer of trainers session organised in Cameroon by the regional coordination of the International Baby Food Action network (IBFAN Africa) is expected to help the government to discover gaps in health investment programme activities.
This will promote best practices; improve on child survival and maternal survival. The WHO tool was simplified by combining GLOPAR from WABA to build the WBTi tool. It works by collecting secondary data and analysing it to come out with the trends.
After the analysis of the data, trends are then used for making decisions to fill the gaps. This helps countries and governments to fill gaps in health investment, programmes and activities. WBTi brings people together to discuss results, since the trends demonstrate achievements and gaps to improve on Infant and Young child feeding.

Breastfeeding and HIV
WHO and WHA recommend AFASS. AFASS stands for the following:
A = Accessibility
F= Feasibilty
A= Affordibilty
S= Sustainability
S= Safety
The above is used for counselling mothers to make well informed choices as far as the nutrition of their children is concerned.
The work in groups aimed at verifying the 15 IYCF key indicators used for evaluating countries with the WBTi tool. Within this frame work, the trainers were separated in three different groups and the indicators shared amongst for verification and scoring of Cameroon. Cameroon scored 81/150 by WHO rating analysis standards and this is equivalent to 54 per cent using WBTi tool.

Core Persons & Partners
The WBTi trainers identified core persons and partners who will pilot the initiative in Cameroon and by consensus vote, it was decided that IBFAN Cameroon should coordinate WBTi in Cameroon under the supervision of its national coordinator as team leader.
The WBTi Cameroon core persons identified are: James Achanyi-Fontem (Cameroon Link), Okala Georges (MOH), Tata Japhet (MOH), Mibe Samuel(MOH), Yvonne Bekeny (IBFAN Cam), Florine Nseumi (IBFAN Cam), Annette Efeti (IBFAN Cam)
The WBTI Partners are: WHO, UNICEF, WABA, IBFAN, Plan International, Helen Keller Foundation, Cameroon Link, ACTHU, CAMNAFAW, Fine Forest Foundation, Vine Yard Cameroon, COGESID and Maleo Sante Plus.
Before closing the training of trainers session in Douala, a WBTi action plan with tasks to be accomplished covering the period from November 2009 to March 2010 was put in place. The tasks included preparing a national work plan for collection of WBTi information and writing of a report that will highlight all the 15 indicators used for monitoring and evaluation.
The report needs to be presented to the government (Ministry of Public Health) and a wider audience for validation by November 30. The final WBTi Report on Cameroon will be communicated to IBFAN Africa Regional Coordination by December 15 and the regional coordination of IBFAN Africa will channel will share the report with others in Africa before channelling to IBFAN Asia by December 15 ahead of the Christmas and New Year holiday period.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

WABA’s GBPM Farewell Party 2008

By Lakshmi Menon
WABA organised a farewell party for all GBPM participants on the last day of the meeting at WABA office. Participants were ferried by bus to WABA office in torrential rain, which had erupted suddenly. Fortunately the strongly erected shamiana in the house compound, provided a good shield against the rain. Guests, including friends and well wishers of WABA, were shown around the office and invited to have the delicious Penang food. We were also treated to Penang’s famous hawker food, prepared by efficient chefs while we waited; some worth mentioning included, unforgettable Laksa (a rather strong noodle soup with fish and prawn paste, onions and pineapple pieces), Char Koey Teao (flat rice noodles fried with shrimps, chicken, eggs, greens and cockles), Ice Kachang (a fabulous dessert with a mix of ice shavings, syrups, beans, nuts, jelly topped with ice cream).
A huge cake in the shape of number 80 to mark Michael Latham’s 80th birthday was brought out to be cut by him. The felicitation of Michael for his contribution to WABA and to the breastfeeding movement touched us all, and quite a few of us were also in awe of Michael’s achievements. And so there was more food, rich food!!! The celebrations continued at another level – the cultural level, even as people could not resist the irresistible food.
Earlier in the day, Audrey Naylor had called for a cultural event “WABA has Talent”.
None of us could have imagined during the past few hectic days of fierce discussions, that there was so much hidden talent amongst us. What we witnessed made us wonder at the creativity and talent which was displayed, which also had us laughing, with many of us in splits.
Clowning around: Two clowns emerged on the scene complete with painted smiles and red noses. Audrey and Sarah hopped about and frisked around making people laugh (and also cry, when tears poured out during hysterical laughter). They handed out colourful waving hands (made of cardboard) so we could “aye” or “nay” when called upon for our opinion of a particular performance.
Judging talent: Judges were appointed to judge the talented. Felicity, Mahmuda Fazal, Nand and Nozipo were nominated judges. Each one gave her/his opinion after each presentation and asked the opinion of the audience. The audience was not in the least reticent. They lustily cheered every actor and waved the colourful hands heartily after every performance.
Songs by little ones and oldies: First, Julianna’s children -10-year-old Shanelle and 7-year-old Shane sang a charming duet. Dr Raj Anand shared his experience with his young patients in his clinic and how he sang to them to dispel their fears and doubts.
The Gender-sensitive Play: Amal and Lakshmi organised a 3-act play on gender sensitiveness. The first scene was at the gynecologist’s when the loving husband and timid wife (played by Marcos Arana and Sita Letchumi) visited a gynecologist (played by Patti Rundal -) for a routine check up. The Dr spoke to the husband about his wife’s condition as if she did not exist. The wife’s attempts to clarify her doubts were brushed away by the solicitous husband who felt she would not understand what the doctor said. The second scene was in the home of a dominating man (played by Dr Prashant Gangal) and his not so timid wife (played by Ali McLaine). The husband was telling his pregnant wife to stop working and take care of their little son and the home, and of course the new born when it arrived. The woman refused to quit her job and said she would be able to cope if he gave up hanging out with his friends or playing cricket on weekends and spent more time in the house, sharing housework and childcare. The third scene was in the factory, where a worker was telling her boss that she was pregnant and wanted information about her maternity entitlements. The boss pointed out that at the time of hiring; she had said she would not be having children. When the worker demanded her rights, the boss offered her two months leave as a favour and instructed her not to inform other workers. The role play was unusual because of reverse roles assumed - Ines Fernandes played the bully boss and James Achanyi took the role of the pregnant female worker (I specify female as even males get pregnant these days). The performance by all actors was simply brilliant.
The Great Canadian Ice Hockey: The Canadian GBPM participants (Betty, Carole, Elaine, Johanna, Lucie & Lucie and Penny) presented us with a game of ice hockey. The two teams were the Canadians representing the Code, WBW and partners such as ILCA, WABA, IBFAN, the Global Strategy against the team representing Multinational companies (MNCs) - Nestle, Gerber, Avent etc. Each player on the MNCs team represented one of these companies. The strategy was to use the key players of those fighting for implementation of the Code and the different WHA resolutions on the side of Canada and the MNCs were all those violating the Code. The referee was meant to be the neutral “United Nations” but there were comments about whether they had been influenced by the multinationals, and finally the refree was selected from a “neutral” country, Egypt. The team used hockey sticks and a puck (a metal disc). The group used hockey terms such as Nestlé getting the first penalty for high sticking and giving the Canadians a penalty shot.  The key player for the penalty shot was the IYCF resolution WHA 61.20 and they scored just before the end of the first half.  At the beginning of the second half, the MNCs brought in their big guys and we saw "follow-up milks" and "RUTF's" on the ice.  The Canadians used their best player "INFACT CANADA" and got a break away to score again and give Canada the win over the multinationals. The game moved at such terrific speed that the spectators were at their wits ended not being able to follow the game. It hardly mattered because it was such fun that we all laughed till we developed a stitch in our sides. It was much later when I tried to find out more about show that I found many of the players themselves had little inkling. Finally managed to get the full details from Carole. How about a WABA Ice Hockey League for the 3rd Global Forum?? Those interested should sign up for the teams and start practising before the final game at Quebec in 2010.
The Drums of Africa: the grand finale was of course the drummers from Africa. James and Nomajoni drummed in accompaniment to the throbbing African music. Fellow Africans, Veronica, Lourdes, Amanda, Joyce and Margaret swung their massive hips to the music and swayed rhythmically. The music was so mesmerizing that it brought everyone to their floor as they all fell under the spell of the music. Who after all could resist such fabulous rhythmic music? Michael Latham, who has his roots in Tanzania, was the first to spring to his feet and he too swayed his slight hips while Felicity joined in the dance. Susan, Ali, and others who were energetically inclined too entered into the fray - by now the dance floor resembled and sounded more like a war zone as the dancers scampered about with whoops of joy. As the night advanced the tempo of the drums increased, so also probably the neighbours’ temper.
We may have been to many such parties in the past, but this one will surely linger in our minds for monthsand years on end. It was so memorable that this time, the GBPM Farewell party had to be documented.

Friday, August 14, 2009

2009 World Breastfeeding Week

Great Outreach In Cameroon
By James Achanyi-Fontem, E-mail:
Outreach during the World Breastfeeding Week, WBW, in Cameroon was in millions as the Minister of Public Health, Andre Mama Fouda, invited men, fathers, and communities to support lactating mothers to accomplish their noble task of breastfeeding babies exclusively for the first six months after birth.
For the first time, the launching of the World Breastfeeding Week was launched out of the nation’s capital of Yaoundé, especially as the event in Obala tied with the theme “Breastfeeding – A Vital Emergency Response: Are We Ready?”.
Minister Andre Mama Fouda thanked his colleagues of the government cabinet , representatives of UN Agencies and the Infant and Young Child Feeding NGOs that turned out to support his ministry with their presence during the mass community event in in Obala.
Cameroon was joining the international community for the 18th time to celebrate wbw, the minister observed, and especially as it was another way of supporting government’s policy in matters of mother and child care. The over 400 mothers and first-time mothers of Obala listened attentively to the minister’s advice and cheered as pertinent infringements to breastfeeding were unmasked.
Minister Andre Mama Fouda sent special kudos to the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, for the many achievements and determination to support fathers, mothers and communities in the promotion of infant and young feeding action in Cameroon.
He lauded the constant financial and material support of UN agencies and international organisations to the Cameroon government for the promotion of mother and child care, and other health programmes. UNICEF Cameroon received special words of thanks for funding the launching event in Obala.
Minister Mama Fouda said, the celebration creates an opportunity to present a balance sheet of the year’s achievements on the path of breastfeeding promotion in Cameroon, and to expand the sensitisation of mothers, first-time mothers, communities and especially health workers on the importance of breastfeeding for the survival of infants.
He echoed that the theme of the celebration this year invites everybody to prepare for emergencies. In the context of Cameroon, efforts are made to supply portable water to communities as a means of avoiding disasters caused by diseases.
The minister told mothers that breastfeeding is indispensable for the growth and well being of the child. Milk and the love of a mother cannot be replaced, he went on. He condemned those who think that it is possible to produce a substance equivalent to breastmilk. Some companies manufacture breastmilk substitute and equate it with breastmilk, Minister Mama Fouda told the large audience present. The minister emphasized, that it is impossible to realize the companies' dreams and breastmilk will remain superior to formula always.Breastmilk is God's gift to humanity.
He testified that their mother breastfed them and they entirely support mothers of today to breastfed their babies exclusively as their mother did. He added that breastmilk is natural and the best for babies because it contains protective elements that cannot be fabricated by the industries.
Formula should be used only in the real cases where the mother would have suffered from an infection and is sick, the minister advised. On attachment, he told mothers in Obala that breastfeeding encourages bonding between the mother and the child. Bonding accelerates growth of the baby, he emphasized.
He revealed that children breastfed never forget their mothers and remain attached even when they become adults. For this reason, mothers should not deprive their children of the above mentioned advantages of breastmilk. While formula needs preparation, breastmilk is ready at all moments. He invited mothers to breastfeed their babies on demand, because the natural milk has no cost.
Addressing teen mothers, the minister said, breastfeeding makes a woman to look more beautiful and their partners, families and communities have to create favourable environment for the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in Cameroon.
During the official launching, members of the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Associations, FECABPA, mounted a giant exhibition in the public ceremony place and Minister Andre Mama Fouda visited the stands and received some up dated WABA information folders, as he was accompanied by his colleagues of the government cabinet and top UN representatives of agencies based in Yaounde, capital of Cameroon.
For more information, click on the following link or copy and paste on your browser-

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Speech on 2009 WBW Launching in Cameroon

Mot du Président de la Fédération des Associations de Soutien à l’Allaitement Maternel au Cameroun, Monsieur James Achanyi-Fontem, à l’occasion du lancement de la SMAM au Cameroun.
Obala, le 6 août 2009

Monsieur le Ministre de la Santé Publique,
Honorables invités
Mesdames, Messieurs,
C’est un honneur pour moi de prendre la parole ici à Obala au nom de la Fédération des Associations de Soutien à l’Allaitement Maternel au Cameroun, en ce jour mémorable à l’occasion de la cérémonie officielle marquant la célébration de la dix huitième Edition de la Semaine Mondiale de l’Allaitement Maternel.
Ce jour nous offre une grande opportunité de mobilisation des populations pour les activités de protection, promotion et soutien de l’Allaitement Maternel.
Excellence, Monsieur le Ministre, notre Fédération a été fondée le 14 septembre 2007 dans le but de soutenir le Ministère de la Santé Publique dans ses missions de promotion, de protection et soutien de l’allaitement maternel auprès des formations sanitaires et des communautés. La vision de FECABPA est de permettre à tous les enfants et leurs mères d’être en bonne santé et de protéger leurs droits.
Monsieur le Ministre de la Santé Publique, il y a deux ans, quatre de nos Associations avaient bénéficié de l’appui de votre Département Ministériel à titre de soutien en matériel. L’année dernière, vous avez permis à 30 de nos membres, de bénéficier d’un renforcement de capacités ici même à OBALA en matière de stratégie de mobilisation, information et éducation des populations. Cette formation nous permet actuellement d’être plus opérationnels et convaincants sur le terrain.
Je voudrais profiter de cette circonstance solennelle, pour vous exprimer notre profonde gratitude pour toutes ces marques d’encouragement à notre endroit.
Permettez moi, Excellence, Monsieur le Ministre, d’exprimer un certain nombre de doléances, qui pourraient rendre notre action beaucoup plus efficace et nous permettre d’atteindre un nombre plus important de personnes dans les communautés du Cameroun.
Il s’agit notamment de :
la mise à notre disposition de matériel éducatif et de mobilisation sociale ;
l’organisation au profit de nos membres, d’autres sessions de formation en allaitement maternel et sur les stratégies de monitoring du code national de commercialisation des substituts du lait maternel signé par le Premier Ministre le 1 er Décembre 2005.
Les formations sur les stratégies de Monitoring du Code National vont accentuer la protection, la promotion et le soutien de l’allaitement maternel; et en même temps amener le Cameroun à se qualifier pour la certification d’un Hôpital Ami des Bébés ou l’initiative d’un Communauté Ami des Bébés par l’OMS/UNICEF. Je suis sûre que le monitoring va aussi augmenter le pourcentage des taux d’allaitement maternel exclusive de 24 % à 35% avant la fin de 2010.
L’encadrement permanent sur le terrain par des équipes de votre département ministériel à titre de supervision ;
La relance de l’appui financier et logistique engagée il y a deux ans ;
His Excellency, after the evaluation of activities of the World Breastfeeding Week in September 2008 by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA, Cameroon Link Health Development NGO thrillingly won the Gold Medal of the Marathon events competition. Some 198 NGOs in 120 countries went in for the competition and Cameroon won the Gold Medal, which I am happy to present to you here officially in Obala.
With this, His Excellency, we plead that the ministry of public health, which you head and UNICEF Cameroon should support the participation of some active Infant and Young Child Feeding organisations in Cameroon to attend and participate in the WABA Global Forum 3 scheduled in Quebec, Canada in June 2010.
His Excellency, the Minister of Public health, FECABPA finally recommends that the government should urgently put in place a National Code Monitoring Committee, that would suggest punitive measures including business closure, suspension of license or financial penalty for damages caused due to illegal market competition by any company violators of the existing national code. FECABPA suggests that sanctions be included as part of the existing Cameroon National Code on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes to strengthen its well formulated articles and encourage effective monitoring strategies that would enforce its application at all levels.
These are the few issues that we happily use this opportunity to call the attention of the government to, during this year’s World Breastfeeding Week 2009.
Excellence, nous vous assurons notre étroite collaboration dans le but d’atteindre ensemble les Objectifs du Millénaire du Développement en ce qui concerne la survie de l’enfant et la santé des mères.
Nous remercions, OMS, UNICEF, WABA, IBFAN, Helen Kelly International, Plan International et tous les autres qui continuent de nous aider dans la promotion de la nutrition infantile au Cameroun.
Je vous remercie pour votre aimable attention.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


By Yvonne Bekeny in Finland
Breastfeeding in general and exclusive breastfeeding in particular has been a natural practice in Finland for several years. The importance of breastfeeding is emphasized by health care staff, and families benefit a lot from this practice because of the welfare services provided by the state in addition to the gender sensitive approaches to child care. A look at two generations of parents in Finland reveals that like in most western countries, breastfeeding was not an issue or “fashioned as being sexy” some 25 years ago. I interviewed parents of two different generations in Finland to learn about how breastfeeding evolved and how fathers supported the mothers who breastfed.
Liisa is 53 years old and breastfed her two grown up children.
“Breastfeeding was not common and was not strongly supported by the health personnel 25 years ago. I breastfed my children because I felt that it was natural and I did that exclusively for six months before introducing liquids and soft food. I had so much milk that I extracted and donated to the hospital because milk banks in Finland generated income for women who gave some of their breastmilk to the hospitals to assist working mothers or others who had problems breastfeeding their babies. Hospitals made it easier by having health personnel go around from home to home to collect the milk for their first food banks. During the periods I breastfed our babies, my husband was totally supportive and helped me with house chores and carrying the baby sometimes so I can rest. He learnt how to change the diapers at night and assist me too with this task. Indeed, it was just a total agreement between my partner and me to have the children breastfed and to do it well”.
Sirpa is 53 years old and nurtured her two grown up children now aged 33 and 25.
Sirpa said, in her case, breastfeeding was very much a mothers business and her personal decision because it was not emphasized in their days like today. In her words, “To me, it was a burden because I did not get any support from my husband.” It was a religious and legalistic burden on women because the state and the church did not provide any kind of support to women in those days. The state and religious organisation considered that it was the right of the child, that a mother should breastfeed her baby. Many did not see how men could be associated to the task of breastfeed.
Annette is 23 years old and a first-time mother. Her baby is two years old already
“I did exclusive breastfeeding for four months before introducing water and supplementary food. However, I continued mixed feeding until our son was 11 months old. My husband was extremely supportive. He did the house chores and this permitted me to have enough time to breastfeed. My partner took the baby and padded him after breastfeeding and this help as father attachment to the baby. He gave me a lot of psychological support and I think most of my friends get that kind of support from their partners too”.
Matti is a 24 year-old first-time father and husband of is Annette
Matti during the conversation with Yvonne gave the reason why he supported Annette. “I supported Annette because I thought that our baby will benefit a lot from breastfeeding. I would give her pillows during the process for her to seat comfortably. I helped to make the place comfortable for her so that both mother and baby were in comfortable positions during the process. I used to get food for her because I knew that she needed to eat well to be able to breastfeed well too. I generally took care of her and made life easy for her. I tried to give her all the psychological support because it was tough for both of us. I did the house chores so she could have much time to rest”. This kept us closer in the interest of our baby boy.
Jessica is 25 year- old mother of two children aged 7 and 6 years already.
Jessica got her babies when “Breastfeeding was already quite common. “My husband was very helpful and did the house tasks, changing the babies’ diapers at night. Unfortunately, I had some allergies, so I could not practise exclusive breastfeeding completely. For this reason, my husband and I decided to introduce other foods quite early enough for the baby not to loss weight and my partner helped in preparing food for the babies too”.
Tiina is 31 years old has 3 children who are aged 7, 6 and 3.
The first two babies of Tiina were born with a difference of just one year. In Tiina’s words, “I got very good support from my husband although he didn’t stay up at night to help change the diapers. I used to have much milk and donated some to the hospital. My partner helped me in doing the extraction and because of his total support, we were able to breastfeed all three children exclusively for 1 year each before continuing with mixed feeding. Our first baby was breastfed for 14 months, the second for 20 months and the third for 29 months and this was thanks to the support I got from their father”.
The above interviews were conducted on Sunday, 3rd of May, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009


By James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator-WABA Men’s Initiative
The 5th annual WABA-FIAN joint gender training workshop ended in New Delhi, India on 9th July 2009. The training was delivered by two experts in gender promotion strategies from India and Malaysia, Renu Khanna and Paul Sinnappan with the coordination of leader- icon brains of the two international networks, Sarah Amin, Co-Director of WABA and Flavio Valente, Secretary General of FIAN.
The joint training workshop aimed at enabling some 29 advocates from the breastfeeding and food rights networks to raise awareness and sensitivity on gender issues. Resource persons for lectures and conducting exchange sessions focused on the gender challenges to breastfeeding and food rights issues. WABA and IBFAN Africa supported 12 persons involved in the breastfeeding protection, promotion and support movement in their regions.
On the first day of the international workshop, the principal trainer, Renu Khana, invited the participants’ patience because the workshop was not going to get into the intricacies of gender and theory due to the short period accorded for the transfer of knowledge. She added that 30% of the course at the beginning was dedicated to getting participants know themselves as this is vital for planting the seeds of gender. That is why a welcome dinner was programmed on the evening of the workshop first day on July 6.
On the second day, the participants exploited the application of gender in all aspects of their work. This included what gender meant for the breastfeeding movement as initiated and promoted by WABA. Towards the end of the training, working with men was introduced as a special aspect with relevance to gender promotion.
To introduce the participants into the core of the issue, Renu Khanna, Paul Sinnappan and Flavio Valente led the selected human right activists to focusing on gender in the larger context that takes into consideration the situation of the environment, cultures, political and socio-economic reflections. To achieve this, gender analysis was done in line with the right to food and gender mainstreaming. Before the end of the course, participants were guided on how to apply the ideas exchanged within the four days in the conception of a plan of action.
Two strategic plans of action were conceived that cover activities in the areas of gender and breastfeeding with gender to the rights to food. To better understand the issue of gender, Renu Khanna talked about what it is and what it is not. This was better understood when the attitudes of the male and female were described considering their natural and structural build ups.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA and the Food First Information and Action Network, FIAN, expected the participants to be well sensitized on the concept of gender and gender mainstreaming, after equipping them with tools and skills of gender analysis by the end of the course. The course participants should be able to enable others in their respective regions and countries in the development of gender analysis of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food after the training in their respective regions and countries now.
Participants returned with resource materials for the application of gender concepts and the development of gender sensitive strategies and work plans. Within the context of the training, participants learnt about how to differentiate between sex and gender, recall dimensions of gender as a system enumerate and list gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food. The men and women were able to list men’s role and responsibilities in appropriate infant feeding and promotion of rights to adequate food by the end of the training.
Issues treated within the period of the workshop included gender and sex, gender as a system, gender aspects of breastfeeding and rights to adequate food, gender analysis frameworks, economic and political contexts of women, men’s involvement, role and responsibilities, gender mainstreaming and gender indicators. The participatory training methodologies included exercises, games, group discussions and presentations, role plays, experience sharing by participants and others.
Renu Khanna has a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the faculty of management studies from Delhi University, India with over 25 years of experience in health care management and organizational development in health.
Paul Sinnappan has for the past 10 years been involved in conducting gender training for men in the credit unions, cooperatives, micro credit programmes and non-governmental organizations, NGOs, in Malaysia and South East Asia.
The joint WABA-FIAN gender training workshop initiative began several years back in 2004 with the introduction of gender concerns by the donor agency, the Canadian Cooperative Association, CCA. Since then, the International Cooperative Association, ICA; the Asian Confederation of Credit Unions, ACCU, and the Asian Women in Cooperative Development Forum, AWCF have become partners in the process of integrating gender in cooperatives in Asia and Pacific region.
Other impact resource persons for the training were Flavio Valente of FIAN International from Heldelberg, Germany and Laskshmi Menon from the Association for consumers’ Action on Safety and Health Centre, ACASH, in Mumbai, India. Lakshmi is a consultant to WABA and was also the former co-coordinator of WABA’s Gender Working Group.
WABA’s gender programme goals include:
1.The promotion of gender awareness among breastfeeding advocates and mainstreaming of the gender perspective in breastfeeding advocacy and programmes.
2.The promotion of collaboration between the breastfeeding movement and the women’s movement, in order to strengthen the common advocacy goals of both movements; and to undertake joint advocacy, education and training on women’s rights, health and breastfeeding.
3.To increase participation of men in domestic work, child care and provide breastfeeding support, to raise men’s awareness on women’s rights and reproductive health issues.
For more information, click on the following link - or

Monday, June 1, 2009

WABA Joint Statement

WABA is pleased to share with you the joint statement, a result of the WABA Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting VII workshop in Penang, Malaysia, October 2008 on : ‘Protecting, Promoting and Supporting Continued Breastfeeding from 6 - 24 + Months: "Issues, Politics, Policies and Action". According to the information circulated by WABA Co-Director Susan Siew, the statement calls upon everyone involved in improving the health and development of infants and young children to take steps to ensure that continued breastfeeding 6-24+ months is protected, promoted and supported as the precondition for, and foundation of, appropriate complementary feeding.
Detailed explanation of the background and context of the statement helps clarify the rationale and challenges involved in the issue of continued breastfeeding. Recommendation on actions encompassing communication, education and promotion; practical support; breastfeeding as part of complementary feeding; definitions and monitoring; addressing misinformation through marketing and special circumstances are also handled in the joint statement.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals & organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.WABA action is based on the Innocenti Declaration, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding. WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF & an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC. For more on the joint statement, please click on the following link at

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Youth HIV Education In Cameroon Colleges

By James Achanyi-Fontem
Cameroon Link
Yvonne Fonduh Bekeny has published her findings on HIV/AIDS education in secondary schools in Cameroon within the frame work of a study of Government Bilingual High Schools in the capital city of Yaoundé. Yvonne has a master’s degree in development and international cooperation from the UNIVERSITY OF JYVÄSKYLÄ, (Department of Education Sciences) Finland.
The study describes secondary school students’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviour in relation to HIV/AIDS and compares these aspects in two Government Bilingual High Schools in Yaoundé-Cameroon. One school ran a formal HIV/AIDS education programme and the other did not. Factors influencing students’ attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) and their trusted sources of HIV/AIDS knowledge were examined.
618 students participated in the survey with ages ranged from 10 to 25 and the average age was 15. The data was collected in November 2008 and findings indicated that students in the two schools are quite knowledgeable about modes of HIV prevention and transmission, while more students in the intervention school are conversant with facts.
There were no differences in attitudes towards PLHIV observed in both schools. Students of the intervention school reported more positive attitudes towards condoms than those of the no-intervention school. Girls demonstrated more discrimination towards PLHIV than boys and religion has an impact on attitudes toward PLHIV.
Students trusted doctors/nurses, parents and teachers as important sources of HIV/AIDS knowledge. The research showed that HIV/AIDS interventions actually impact moderate behaviour changes, but there is weak correlation between HIV/AIDS education and attitudes towards PLHIV.
This calls for vigorous input into the formal HIV/AIDS intervention, targeting specific behavioural aspects and perhaps qualitative approaches to understanding the drivers of students’ attitudes. Yvonne Fonduh Bekeny suggests that parents should be more involved in the process of HIV/AIDS education as well.
Since its discovery, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has spread more rapidly than most diseases in recent history, having social-cultural, economical and moral repercussions on individuals, families, communities and threatening foundations of entire societies. Over the years, the link between HIV/AIDS and impoverishment has grown and even stronger as the disease is infecting and affecting the younger generation who are the productive labour force of every economy. An estimated 11.8 million young people aged 15–24 are living with HIV/AIDS, and half of all new infections, over 6,000 daily, are occurring among them (The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, UNAIDS, 2003).
Africa is still the highest hit region with 63% of global infections and the highest prevalence among the age group 15-49 (UNAIDS, 2003). The international community has come to acknowledge that HIV/AIDS is not only a health problem. It is a developmental disaster of alarming proportions which will affect development goals at the human, financial and material levels.
In Cameroon, the prevalence has generally been stagnating and the WHO (2005) observes that young people in Cameroon are highly affected. Indeed, a third of Cameroonians infected are 15-29 years of age. This age group constitutes all Cameroonians who are in secondary school, high school, University, vocational schools, professional schools and those in active service. Cameroon has a population of about 18,175.000 million, (WHO Cameroon, 2009).
According to UNAIDS (2008), HIV adult prevalence stands at 5,5%. The number of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) is 543,295. The number of infections for those aged 15-24 years is 3,2%, 44.813 children aged 0-14 are living with HIV and children orphaned by AIDS related diseases amount to 305,000. Deaths related to AIDS infections are 43,632.
In their article, Mbanya, Martyn & Paul (2008) state that the socio-economic impact of the disease is profound with growing numbers of sectors being affected, and high hospital bed occupancy rampant. They add that this results in overstretched medical personnel and extra burden to the health and education sectors where school teachers are reported to be unproductive
on several counts and morbidity increasing from opportunistic infections. This of course, poses a major challenge to the socio-economic development of the country considering the fact that the age group below 15 makes up about 42% of the entire population (Population Reference Bureau, 2009).
Although the government of Cameroon has been quite committed in the fight against HIV/AIDS, especially in the domain of providing Anti Retro Viral (ARV) drugs and care and support of people living with HIV/AIDS, it has been observed that prevalence among the 15-24 years old is staggering, and they still remain the highest risk group in Cameroon.
Children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS are more likely to drop out of school at some point in time. The entire school systems are themselves affected by HIV/AIDS, 95% of HIV positive teachers have difficulties with punctuality in school and 73% of them affirm that they have to stop lessons from time to time when they are not physically fit. Up to 67% of students living with HIV face similar problems. (UNESCO Cameroon, 2007). These circumstances make it difficult for students to have a decent education.
The Paranoid situation created by this pandemic is putting the entire educational systems and the society at large under pressure. The education system must be supported through prevention, for education is the major driver of economic and social development. Indeed, countries education sectors have a strong potential to make a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS (Bundy 2002). Prevention and coping strategies can only be ensured through education for it is a reality that with the present state of scientific knowledge and development, the only protection available to society is through education (Kelly, 2004).
The youth were the focus of this study because they are the future driving force of the economy and their well being will improve every aspect of the nation’s development, including demographic aspects such as life expectancy, which is currently at 50 years (UNDP, 2008). During my years as a teacher, I realized that most students infected or orphaned by AIDS related causes, could not afford school requirements and they were also under a lot of psychological pressure as a result of stigma and discrimination. Consequently, some students who were infected and affected were perpetual absentees because of the social effects, exclusion, anxieties and impoverishment perpetrated by the AIDS epidemic.
These experiences have moved me to research on HIV/AIDS education and its relevance to secondary school students as one means to disenable the vicious cycle of trauma, impoverishment and disease stimulated by HIV/AIDS. This is an attempt to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on the students in particular and on the educational system in general. It is also important because
halting the spread of HIV is not only a Millennium Development Goal (MDG) in itself, but a prerequisite for reaching other MDGs (UNESCO, 2006). Thus, if Cameroon is to achieve Education for All (EFA) and other MDGs by 2015, education at this stage must incorporate# aspects of HIV/AIDS. The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) has observed that education
can have a dramatic effect on the health of a nation. Girls and boys who complete primary school are 50% less likely to be infected with HIV, implying that 7 million cases of HIV could be prevented in a decade by the achievement of EFA (GCE, 2007).
The UNAIDS Cameroon (2008) country report concludes that there is less emphasis on national prevention programmes and much attention is focused on treatment and care of PLHIV. The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPE) indicates that HIV/AIDS is still a problem in Cameroon especially for young women and girls. They further that stigma and discrimination is a distinct problem in Cameroon (IPPF, 2007). This issue is emphasized by Njechu (2008) who reports that the non-collection of HIV results after screening has been blamed for the increase in HIV incidences in Cameroon. His report was based on information from the Yaoundé based Institute of Behavioural Research (IRESCO) who warned that only 7% of young people aged 15-24 who went for voluntary testing collected their results.
The research revealed that many who did the screening test and failed to collect their results either feared stigmatization or imminent death if they were HIV positive. The research also stated that only a few Cameroonians within this age group go in for voluntary testing.
For more information, contact researcher by email:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Why Men Die Early

Why Men die earlier than Women
James Achanyi-Fontem
Coordinator WABA MWG
According to statistics, it is observed that women outlive men in the world today, and scientists have traditionally pointed to riskier behaviour on the part of men as the reason why. Another reason for the earlier demise of men may be that they are more prone to parasitic infections. In a study report, Ian P. F. Owens, from Imperial College London, writes, that "In those species where males die younger than females, the males suffer a disproportionately high rate of parasitism. This is most extreme in those species where male-male competition for mates is most severe. From the above thought, it is believed that male-biased mortality occurs not only as a result of death through risky behaviour, but also because males are more susceptible to parasitic diseases.
Owens believes testosterone may play a key role to make men more prone to infections. The male hormone is well-recognized as an immunosuppressant, and studies have shown men who are castrated (and thus no longer produce testosterone) live about 15 years longer than men who are not castrated. Testosterone may suppress the immune system, he continues, by changing the way men's bodies allocate important resources, such as taking energy away from the immune system and using it for other purposes.
Another explanation for the increased risk for parasitic infections among males, suggested is the simple fact that men are bigger than women and thus provide a larger target for parasites
• As of 2005, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was 80.4 for women and 75.2 for men. That means men, on average, die 5.2 years earlier than women.1
• Statistics show that being male is now the single largest risk factor for early mortality in developed countries.2
• A number of genetic-biological and socio-cultural factors contribute to the longevity gap between men and women. They include differences in sex hormones, sex chromosomes, immune response, iron in the blood, natural selection, cultural conditioning and how the sexes deal with their standing in society.
• How much of the longevity gap is due to biology and how much to environment or behaviour is a matter of debate among scientists but the best data we have today suggests that only about one-third of longevity is due to genes.
• Boys in the U.S are reported to have a 29 percent higher prenatal death rate3 and are 20 percent more vulnerable to infant mortality up to age one.4
• According to a study done in 2003 by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan, men have higher age-adjusted death rates than women for the 15 leading causes of death in the U.S., with the exception of Alzheimer's disease.5
• Because men usually develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than women do, they are more likely to die of it in the prime of life. About one-fourth of all heart-disease-related deaths occur in men aged between 35 to 65.6
• More American men than women are reported stricken with cancer. The age-adjusted invasive cancer incidence rate per 100,000 people in 2004 was 537.6 for men and 402.1 for women.7
• Men are 30% more likely to suffer a stroke than are women, making it the third-leading cause of death in men.8
• More than twice as many men die each year because of accidents as do women.9
• Men have a 30 percent higher risk of death from pneumonia than women.10
• Men's death rates are at least twice as high as women's for suicide, homicide and cirrhosis of the liver.11
• If men attempt suicide, they are more likely to succeed than women. Suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for males and the sixteenth leading cause of death for females in 2004.12
• Scientists believe that if everybody adopted a healthy lifestyle and medical advances in prevention, early detection and treatment of disease continue at their present pace, we could achieve an average life expectancy of 85 or 90.
• As obesity becomes more pervasive in the U.S., some predict that life expectancy may actually decrease.13
• Men are more prone to taking risks than women.14 There's also evidence that they are quicker to aggression15 and more likely than females to express their aggression physically.16
• Male drivers have a 77 percent higher risk of dying in a car accident than women, based on miles driven.17
• Men are much more likely to be incarcerated than women18 and are far more likely than women to be victims of violent crime.19
• If men attempt suicide, they are more likely to succeed than women.20
• About one-quarter of adult men currently smoke at least occasionally compared with one in five women21 which can lead to higher death rates from diseases like arteriosclerotic heart disease, lung cancer and emphysema.
• Men drink more and indulge in recreational drugs more often than women, both risk factors for long-term health problems and accidental death.
A study published in the July 2000 issue of Psychological Review reported that US females are more likely to deal with stress by seeking support than men. Statistically men in Cameroon die at a younger age than women for several reasons, including genetic and biologic factors. This relates to the fact that being male is now the single largest risk factor for early mortality in developing countries on the whole.
How much of the longevity gap is due to biology and how much to environment or behaviour remains a matter of debate among scientists. According to Thomas Perls, MD, women have been outliving men for centuries though the gap has changed over time, primarily due to the hazards of childbirth. Though medical science has become more successful in providing better outcomes for women delivering babies in the developed countries to increase the longevity gap, research needs to be carried in the developing countries to learn about the current real situation estimated at 5 years of outliving men.
The longevity gap varies by age, scientists have revealed. While boys die more frequently than girls in infancy, during childhood, and during each subsequent year of life, male mortality accelerates considerably during certain stages of life. Between ages 15 and 24 years, when testosterone is at its highest levels in men, they are four to five times more likely to die than women. The gap then narrows until late middle age when the death rate for men increases mainly due to heart disease, suicide, car accidents and illnesses related to smoking and alcohol use.
In 2005, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention listed the 15 leading causes of death as the following:
• Heart disease
• Cancer
• Stroke
• Chronic lower respiratory diseases
• Accidents
• Diabetes
• Alzheimer's disease
• Influenza and pneumonia
• Kidney disease
• Septicaemia
• Suicide
• Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis
• Hypertension
• Parkinson's disease
• Homicide
Consider the following:
• Because men usually develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than women do, they are more likely to die of it in the prime of life. About one-fourth of all heart-disease-related deaths occur in men ages 35 to 65.5
• More men than women are stricken with cancer. The age-adjusted invasive cancer incidence rate per 100,000 people in 2004 was 537.6 for men and 402.1 for women.6
• Men are 30% more likely to suffer a stroke than are women, making it the third-leading cause of death in men.7
• More than twice as many men die each year because of accidents as do women.8
• Men have a 30 percent higher risk of death from pneumonia than women.9
• Men's death rates are at least twice as high as women's for suicide, homicide and cirrhosis of the liver.10
• If men attempt suicide, they are more likely to succeed than women. Suicide was the eighth leading cause of death for males and the sixteenth leading cause of death for females in 2004.11
1. Sexual selection and the Male: Female Mortality Ratio; Daniel Kruger, PhD; Randolph Nesse, MD; Human Nature, 2004. 2: 66-85
2. Just Like a Woman: How Gender Science is Redefining What Makes Us Female Dianne Hales, Random House, Inc.
3. Thomas Perls, MD, Harvard Medical School, New England Centenarian Study (NECS).
4. David R. Williams, the Institute for Social Research, American Journal of Public Health, May 2003.
5. American Heart Association.
6. U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999-2004 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report Version. Atlanta (GA): Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Cancer Institute.
7. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
8. Centres for Disease Prevention and Control.
9. University of Pittsburgh School of the Health Sciences.
10. Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.
11. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, National Centre for Injury Prevention and Control. Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Men's Health & Gender

Why men die and suffer more than women
By James Achanyi-Fontem,
Coordinator, WABA MWG
Women’s health has always an important part of national priority in most countries of the world, but unfortunately no counselling centres or offices for men’s health exist in most countries. It is within this frame work that one can rightly say that men are silently suffering through what can be described as a serious health crisis. Lifestyle is used to explain the differences in longevity between men and women.
One begins to question whether the mere suggestion that men need their own health counselling centres or health clinics or that men must advocate for their rights like a victimized minority would not rankle women’s health advocates, especially as some politicians are reluctant to take men’s health on as a cause, for fear of alienating women.
Apart from the exception of Alzheimer’s disease, takes the lives of more women than men, men die of just about every one of the leading causes of death at younger ages than women, from lung cancer to influenza and pneumonia, chronic liver disease, diabetes, sickle cell disorder and AIDS. Topping the list for both sexes is heart disease.
Cancer also strikes men disproportionately: one in three women at some point in life; one in two men. In part, that is a result of the fact that more men than women smoke, and possibly of occupational exposures.
On the other hand, men’s vulnerability appears to start quite early. More male foetuses are conceived, but they are at greater risk of stillbirth and miscarriage, scientists find. Even as infants, mortality is higher among newborn boys and premature baby boys.
Behaviour plays a role in some of the extra deaths and illnesses among men: they tend to be more aggressive than women and to take more risks. Men smoke at higher rates than women, drink more alcohol and are less likely to wear seat belts or use sunscreen. Men also suffer more accidental deaths and serious injuries and are more likely to die of injuries and car accidents. They are three times as likely to be victims of murder, four times as likely to commit suicide and, as teenagers, 11 times as likely to drown.
Some experts think that depression contributes to these reckless and self-destructive behaviours, but that just as heart disease was initially defined by men’s experiences and therefore ignored or missed in women, depression may have been framed by women’s experiences and therefore may be missed and go untreated in men.
As a result, even though more baby boys are born, among people in their mid-30s, women outnumber men. Among people age 100, women outnumber men by 8 to one. During a research study carried out by Dr. Legato, he tried asked a number questions, which tried to clarify analysis of male vulnerability like: “Why are there more miscarriages of boy foetuses? What is it about the sexing of the foetus that makes a male more vulnerable? What makes a boy less mature in terms of lung function after he’s born? And what is this propensity for risk-taking?”
One theory is that males are vulnerable because of their chromosomal makeup: where women have two X chromosomes, men have an X chromosome and a Y chromosome. “It is said that even before implantation in the wall of the uterus, the newly fertilized XX entity has a leg up,” Dr. Legato said, “because it can use that extra X to combat mutations in the chromosome that might be lethal or detrimental. And that might be a reason why females have a more sturdy constitution.”
Scientists and advocates who are concerned about men’s health are encouraging men themselves to take the first steps by accepting responsibility for their health status, seeking preventive care and making changes in habits, if necessary. New drugs for erectile dysfunction have helped bring men into doctors’ offices in recent years, experts say, but that is not enough.
Dr. Ken Goldberg, a urologist and the author of “How Men Can Live as Long as Women,” says in his work that “Men need to take as good care of their bodies as they do of their cars and trucks”. Men should stop thinking that they are bulletproof and invincible.
Research based on a 2000 survey by the Commonwealth Fund found that almost a quarter of all men had not seen a doctor during the previous year, compared with only 8 percent of women, and that one in three men had no regular doctor, compared with one in five women. More than half of men had not gone in for a routine check-up or cholesterol test during the previous year. Even if something was bothering them, the survey found, men often expressed reluctance to seek medical help. Nearly 40 percent said they would delay care for a few days, and 17 percent said they would wait at least a week.
Other studies have found that because poor women with children may qualify for Medical aid, poor men are more likely to lack health insurance. Advocates say that research must be directed at how specific diseases develop in men, but that studies should also be done to explore the underlying reasons that men do not take better care of themselves.
Dr. William Pollack, director of the Centre for Men at McLean Hospital in Belmont, Mass., USA affiliated with Harvard Medical School thinks that the problems are rooted in how boys are raised. Very often, “we’ve socialized men from the time they are boys that ‘You have to stand on your own two feet,’ ‘If you have a problem, handle it by yourself,’ ‘Be a man, take one for the team. “All of these mean, men do not have to complain, don’t have to ask for help and they have to solve their problems by themselves.’ ”

Monday, January 5, 2009

WABA Birthing The World In Quebec, Canada 2010

WABA Birthing The World in Quebec,Canada from 12 - 17 June,2010
James Achanyi-Fontem, Cameroon Link
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA, has issued an invitation to all protectors, promoters and supporters of breastfeeding worldwide to join the Global Forum III slated in Quebec City, Canada from the 12th - 17th June 2010. The message went around the world on the 14th February 2009 when WABA clocked 18. In an information sheet published during the anniversary, it narrated 18 great things that happened since the creation of the global breastfeeding promotion movement.
It would be recalled that,one of the resolutions taken during the Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting, GBPM VII 2008 in Penang was the hosting of WABA Forum 2010 in Quebec, Canada and the exact date was awaited. During the deliberations, representatives of Quebec Public Health Association ,QPHA, made a presentation on the level of preparations. QPHA invited all Core Partners of WABA to join Quebec in Summer 2010 to rebirth the world in Canada’s historic city. Presenting templates under the theme “Birthing the World”, the association said it is going to be at the first sunrise and each birth is going to be unique, mystical and historic.
Canadians see the event as an event that belongs to the community on a long path of human evolution and participants will not only talk to themselves but to the world as a whole. The preparation of this project started in 2001 with the adoption of Quebec’s Breastfeeding Guidelines ahead of the participation in the 2nd WABA Forum in Monik St.Pierre in 2002.
In 2004 - 2005, the association presented the project to a joint session of WABA and the International Lactation Consultants Association, ILCA, before the organization was approached in 2006 to host the event by WABA's Co-Directors.
The Co-Directors of WABA, Susan Siew and Sarah Amin visited Canada in 2007 for a feasibility study with ASPQ and this led to the take off of preparations proper presented at the GBPM VII 2008 in Penang, Malaysia. At the heart of the mission of ASPQ is health and members keep questioning themselves about the way forward by mobilizing people and influencing decision makers.
In Canada, ASPQ contributes to prevention, promotion and improving the health and well being of people.
A major activity of the organization in the past 30 years has been centred on “Perinatality”, which is the period from conception to when the child is 24 months of age. The continuum of perinatality includes pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.
At this time, consideration is given to the mother and child with a lot of question, analysis as a critical eye is developed towards the dominant culture linked to perinatal issues. ASPQ has organized four international conferences on different themes which include, to give birth or be delivered in 1980, annual perinatal isssues in 1990, obstetrics and public health in 2004, becoming a parent in 2008. The last conference looked into the wants and needs of parents. The international conference of 2010 within the WABA Forum will focus on the theme of "Birthing the World".
It should be noted that in Canada, health is under provincial jurisdiction. At the Federal Government level, Health Canada and the Canadian Public Health Agency supervize activities and take decisions. At the provincial levels are implanted the ministry of health and social services, which serve populations of up to 7.5 million inhabitants directly as the public health link.
The public health mandate in Canada is to protect culture, under which are community life styles, the medical care system and human made environment issues interact. These services check personal behaviour, psycho-social environment, physical environment and human biology, which all affect families and biosphere.
Canada has 23 certified Baby Friendly Hospitals, birthing centres and community health services. Out of the 23, 17 are found in Quebec. This could be the good reason that opened the doors for Quebec hosting the WABA Forum which is usually a fertile ground for learning and exchange of experiences. The breastfeeding history of Quebec, however, tells us that two generations of mothers have not breastfed their babies and breastfeeding initiation rates have remained as low as 20%.
Breastfeeding objectives were integrated into public health national priorities in Canada only in 1997. According to the decision of the WABA GBPM last October, 2010 would also be a good venue and opportunity to hold the first-ever men's initiative forum as men get more and more involved in breastfeeding promotion and protection.
For more on the men's initiative, click on and for events in video format.

Benefits of Breastfeeding
According to the US Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, ABM, breastfeeding offers irrefutable and long-lasting health benefits for both mother and baby, who are supported by a comprehensive body of scientific research, including original articles and reviews such as those in Breastfeeding Medicine, the peer-reviewed journal of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.
According to leaders of the Academy, despite a sound scientific basis for the advantages of breastfeeding, dissenting opinions that aim to discredit breastfeeding, and question its relevance for women, receive exposure in the mass media such as the recent article in The Atlantic. Critics of breastfeeding do a disservice to new mothers around the world who seek the facts about the proven health benefits of breastfeeding as they often misrepresent the scientific findings and wrongly base global recommendations on the experiences and views of select groups of women.
Clinical and basic science research supports the role of breastfeeding in the development of a baby’s immune system and the presence of maternal antibodies protects infants against infection. Artificial feeding is also associated with increased risk of common disorders of early childhood such as ear infections, asthma, skin disorders, digestive problems, and respiratory tract infections. Studies have also linked artificial feeding to increased risk for obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis. Mothers benefit as well, and a history of breastfeeding has been associated with a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and of breast and ovarian cancer.
With this growing body of evidence, and increasing support among health and medical professionals, breastfeeding rates in the U.S. are in fact on the rise. “But we are reminded as articles like this arise that misinformation abounds. Our goal is to continue to educate healthcare professionals to support mothers who understand the singular importance of breastfeeding and choose to do so,” remarks Caroline J. Chantry, MD, President of the Academy.
“The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine encourages all women to make an informed choice when faced with the question of how to feed their infants based on strong, well-referenced scientific information. The data are compelling, scientific, and reinforced constantly. Breastfeeding for the new mother may not always be easy, but it is important and rewarding for both mother and infant,” says Ruth A. Lawrence, MD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, from the Department of Pediatrics, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
The Academy is a global organization of physicians dedicated to the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding through education, research, and advocacy (
The Academy promotes the development and dissemination of clinical practice guidelines, and offers clinical protocols for the care of breastfeeding mothers and infants which are available on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ) National Guideline Clearinghouse website. The education of physicians and other healthcare professionals is the continuing goal of its Annual International Meeting; the 2009 Meeting will be held November 5-8 in Williamsburg, VA.
Breastfeeding Medicine is an authoritative, peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary journal published quarterly. The journal publishes original scientific articles, reviews, and case studies on a broad spectrum of topics in lactation medicine. It presents evidence-based research advances and explores the immediate and long-term outcomes of breastfeeding, including the epidemiologic, physiologic, and psychological benefits of breastfeeding. The Academy's complete position statement appears on the Academy website (
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, 140 Huguenot St., New Rochelle, NY 10801-5215(800) 990.4ABM (914) 740.2115 Fax: (914) 740.2101 Email: Web site:
“Breastfeeding is going natural”