IBFAN was founded in 1979. It is a network of 273 groups in 168 countries. Member groups include consumer organisations, health workers associations, parents’ Support groups and diverse organizations in the social media and justice movements. It has also individual members. For example, the group in Canada and United Kingdom have more than 1000 members each. Each group is autonomous and raises its own funds, with the assistance of IBFAN’s Regional office and Programme Coordinating Offices, in accordance with the Seven Principles of the Global Body (IBFAN). IBFAN Cameroon brings together some 46 independent organisations implanted in the 10 regions of Cameroon. The greatest number of associations are in the Littoral region.
IBFAN Cameroon’s goal
IBFAN Cameroon improves the wellbeing of women and children through contributing to the reduction of five morbidity and mortality rates and improving maternal health. Improved infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices that could prevent the deaths of 1.000.000 children under the age of 5 years every year and save more than 300 thousand from the life – long debilitating effects of stunning and severe malnutrition (WHO Sixty – third World Health Assembly WHA63.23, Agenda item 11.6). It should be noted that Improved IYCF can also contribute to achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’S) 2016 – 2030. IBFAN Cameroon does not use one single approach to achieve its goal but rather uses a variety of strategies and initiatives.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), adequate nutrition, beginning in early stages of life is crucial to ensure good physical and mental development and long-term health. The key recommendation is to initiate breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the child’s life. The benefits of breastfeeding are well known, including providing the perfect nutrition and protection from life-threatening ailments, obesity and non-communicable diseases. However, more than half of the world’s new-borns are not breastfed within the first hour of birth. In Cameroon, this is rated at 92% Only 38% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life in Cameroon (WBti) . Several reports have highlighted the fact that sub-optimal breastfeeding has greatly contributed to malnutrition, which continues to be a major public health challenge especially in northern and eastern regions of Cameroon. In these regions, 20% of the children below 5 years of age are stunted. It is particularly noteworthy that Cameroon is faced with the double burden of under-nutrition and overweight in the Far North and East regions due to the presence of Boko Haram and refugees from neighbouring countries to Cameroon. In 2013, more than two-thirds of the 2.5 million under-weight and overweight children under 5 years of age resided in low and middle-income health districts of Cameroon. The IBFAN Cameroon agenda is piloted by the Federation of Cameroon Breastfeeding Promotion Asso0ciations (FECABPA) coordinated by Cameroon Link and the Ministry of Public Health.
Protection Of Women and Children’s Rights to health
Protection of women and children’s right to health through maternity benefits and other efforts: IBFAN Cameroon advocates for national government to support the ILO Convention 183 of 2000 on Maternity Benefits and Recommendation 191 on the rights of all working women.
Public Awareness and Advocacy
Public awareness and advocacy is intended to create a more visible, vocal and trusted Cameroon Network at both the 10 Regional and National levels.
Optimal Infant and Child Feeding prevention of MTCT
Optimal infant and young child feeding and prevention of MTCT is intended to contribute to HIV- free child survival and the reduction of morbidity and mortality of infants and young children born to HIV+ mothers through quality counselling on infant feeding with the mothers.
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and Baby Friendly Community Initiative: intended to promote protect and support breast feeding and food based complementary feeding.
Infant Feeding in Emergencies
Infant feeding in emergencies is intended to support government and international organisations through the enforcement of an Emergency Code Monitoring tool, designed to support the work of humanitarian agencies, Cameroon Link and IYCF advocates where it is deemed necessary.
Men and Youth involvement and Gender Awareness
Men and youth involvement and Gender Awareness Groups in Cameroon create awareness of gender mainstreaming, support women and educate other men and youths in IYCF issues within the scope of WABA (Men’s Working Group) Agenda.
Camlink Y4DA Initiative
“Develop and sustain young advocates to promote, protect and support optimal maternal, infant and young child health and nutrition”
Although the need for community involvement in youth programs seems clear, only a few organizations have actually attempted to measure the added value of incorporating such participation into the promotion of nutrition of the youth and infants in such programs. Clearly, adolescence is a pivotal stage of the life cycle, and in turn, provides a unique opportunity to foster transition from childhood to adulthood. Ensuring that the nutritional needs of the adolescents are met is essential to this transition. Youth participation increases the impact of Youth Reproductive Health and HIV/AIDS programs through ensuring greater relevance to the problems and issues faced by young people and increasing sustainability of interventions.
The youth as part of many social domains have power to share with others about the benefits of good health and nutrition practices including promotion of breastfeeding in the communities as the number of teen mothers is on the increase in schools, universities, work places and youth organizations. There are a large number of youth groups and organizations in Cameroon that are valuable in the promotion of appropriate IYCF and also promote their general health and nutrition.
Cameroon Link and FECABPA are leading organizations in the promotion of IYCF and its relationship with the Ministries of Health, Youth and Sports, to access health facilities and communities is well positioned to support, promote, and protect appropriate infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in the country. The creation of a programme for the youth to involve them in the promotion of its objectives was another way of spreading its scope to help in the improvement of the health of the infants and mothers especially the young parents. Camlink Y4DA is involved in farming activities for income generation purposes.
Based on the above justification, the camlink Y4DA Initiative came as an answer to provide support to the scale up of interventions on appropriate IYCF and the general health and nutrition of youth in Cameroon that IBFAN Cameroon is already operating in. IBFAN Cameroon currently has 20 active Youth Groups in Cameroon like other African countries.
The overall objective of the camlink Y4DA Network is to develop and sustain young advocates to promote, protect, and support optimal infant and young child feeding. The IAYN is mandated to participate in the affairs of IBFAN Africa through a coordinator or representative. The youth desks provided for under the Cameroon Link and FECABPA Offices are charged with the responsibility of coordinating and communicating issues affecting the youth and spearhead development and implementation of youth programs at the national level and as a liaison with the other regional bodies and initiatives within the health, social and nutrition fraternity on matters pertaining to the youth.
Cameroon Link Key Activity Areas
Advocacy for and support for the establishment and strengthening of the youth groups for optimal maternal, infant and young child health and nutrition across the national network.
Collaboration with already existing youth groups and also spearheading the establishment of more new groups both at the national and district health levels in the promotion of child and youth rights to better health and nutrition with an emphasis on the young parents. Scaling up of interventions that have been successful in the already implementing country regions will be a key highlight in efforts to grow the network. This is through communicating leadership opportunities and conducting trainings for youth; building partnerships with community agencies to develop common goal for youth involvement; engaging community agencies to provide leadership opportunities for youth within the network; and enhancing services for youth and families across child serving agencies through resource mobilization to provide training for youth advocates.
Strengthening peer education in communities, schools and other institutions among the national network
Peer education is considered one of many tools available to reach young people with information and also in developing their skills for behaviour change. The camlink Y4DA Network strives to develop and promote peer education programs that are in support for the rights of young people to scientifically accurate information about nutrition, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, and where needed, access to youth-friendly services. Using current ITC technological advancements to come up with ideas and concepts that are relevant in today’s communication environment and needs of the young people.
Participation in the development of interventions and programs that promote optimal nutrition and health among the youth in the national network
Attainment of full growth especially among adolescent girls is very important. Pregnancy puts severe nutritional demands on a woman’s body, and among girls who become pregnant there are high risks of maternal mortality, pregnancy complications, and delivery of low birth weight infants. The National Youth Network is involved in development of programs that are directed towards education of youth on good nutrition and reproductive health practices. This also involves building partnerships with agencies in support for rights based programmes, youth empowerment and development programmes through entrepreneurship and investment projects that support and improve livelihoods of youth within communities.
The camlink Y4DA Network puts into effect the strategy and focus areas of the plan of action of the African Youth Charter. The camlink Y4DA Strategy has been based on the priorities set within the IBFAN Africa policies under the theme “Developing young advocates for breastfeeding promotion”. The objectives and targets are aligned to the IBFAN Africa Strategic Plan (IASP), and it is in line with the African Union Decade Plan of Action (DPoA), the African Youth Charter and World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and Beyond (WPAY). The camlink Y4DA Network operates within the framework of the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding and works in the area of Nutrition; HIV and AIDS; Child Health; Reproductive Health as well as Health Promotion and Education.
Focus of Camlink Y4DA Initiative and Strategy is to:
Provide continuity in terms of strategic planning for the Cameroon Youth Network.
Capture critical lessons in implementation to guide strategic focus and investments for youth in the medium and long term, and consolidated investment targeting youth socio-economic empowerment;
Align the national network priorities with organizational, regional and country government policies and strategies in terms of health and nutrition for youth;
Ensure rights-based approach to youth development through meaningful participation and representation; and
Mainstream youth perspective in the efforts to achieve broad development goals and priorities
Camlink Y4DA Initiative as implemented under the African programmes has become an avenue of fulfilment of the Organization’s objectives. Implementation of its activities both at health district and community levels is one way of strengthening efforts and upholding achievements so far reached by building the blocks for tomorrow’s breastfeeding promotion movement and concerted efforts and engagement of populations and organisations in support of this initiative will go a long way to ensure that SDGs, and other international initiatives are reached in Cameroon.
Monitoring and Evaluation
Cameroon Link is part of the global monitoring alliance for maternal and child nutrition: World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi).
Cameroon Link provides health district level or national training for Men, Women, Youth and Community Radio Stations, NGOs, CBOs, government health staff and other organisations involved in the area of maternal health and nutrition and child feeding.
UNICEF's work on statistics and monitoring
UNICEF has learned through experience that problems that go unmeasured often go unsolved. In collaboration with a wide range of partners, UNICEF gathers evidence on the situation of children and women around the world. It uses this knowledge to inform national and global decision-making with the objective of improving children’s well-being.
Some recent facts:
• 16,000 children die every day, mostly from preventable or treatable causes.
• The births of nearly 230 million children under age 5 worldwide (about one in three) have never been officially recorded, depriving them of their right to a name and nationality.
• 2.4 billion people lack access to improved sanitation, including 946 million who are forced to resort to open defecation for lack of other options.
• Out of an estimated 35 million people living with HIV, over 2 million are 10 to 19 years old, and 56 per cent of them are girls.
• Globally, about one third of women aged 20 to 24 were child brides.
• Every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies as a result of violence.
• Nearly half of all deaths in children under age 5 are attributable to undernutrition. This translates into the unnecessary loss of about 3 million young lives a year.
Supporting data collection
UNICEF supports countries in collecting data related to children and women through Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS), an international household survey programme. Since its inception in the mid-1990s, four rounds of MICS have been completed (in 1995-1996, 2000-2001, 2005-2006, 2009-2012) and a fifth is now under way (2013-2015). By 2015, over 280 surveys are expected to have been implemented in more than 100 low- and middle-income countries. Each round of surveys builds upon the last and offers new indicators to monitor trends and current priorities.
The MICS programme is designed to collect statistically sound, internationally comparable data on more than 100 indicators used by countries to assess the situation of children and women in the areas of education, health, gender equality, rights and protection. It also provides data required to monitor progress towards national and international goals and commitments aimed at promoting the welfare of children. As part of the MICS global programme, UNICEF provides technical support and training through a series of regional workshops covering questionnaire content, sampling and survey implementation, data processing, data quality and analysis, report writing, data archiving and dissemination and further analysis. Under the fourth round of MICS, close to 700 UNICEF staff and experts from developing countries were trained worldwide.
Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys generate data on more than 20 indicators used to measure progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), making the programme one of the largest single sources of data for MDG monitoring. The data generated in the fifth round of MICS (along with other nationally representative household surveys) is critically important in the final assessment of the MDGs, which was launched by the United Nations Secretary-General in September 2015.
The MICS programme has pioneered the development and implementation of new measurement tools in areas such as early childhood development, female genital mutilation/cutting, child discipline, hand washing, post-natal health care and low birthweight. MICS findings have been used extensively as a basis for policy decisions and programme interventions, and for the purpose of influencing public opinion on the situation of children and women around the world.
Leading data analysis
UNICEF maintains a series of global databases for tracking the situation of children and women globally. The databases include only statistically sound and nationally representative data from household surveys and other sources. They are updated annually through a process that draws on a wealth of data maintained by UNICEF’s network of 140 country offices.
Developing new methodologies
UNICEF plays an active – often leadership – role in a number of inter-agency monitoring groups on specific topics. Together with its inter-agency partners, UNICEF helps devise new methodologies, indicators and monitoring tools, build statistical capacity at the country level, develop joint estimates, and harmonize monitoring work across partners. UNICEF has also led the development of new indicators and methodologies for gathering relevant data on a number of priority issues, including education, child labour, child disability, child mortality, maternal mortality, water and sanitation, low birthweight, antenatal care, pneumonia, malaria, iodine deficiency disorder, female genital mutilation/cutting, and vitamin A deficiency.
Assessing progress towards international goals
UNICEF has undertaken extensive work on the development of indicators for national and international development goals and targets related to the well-being of children and women. These successful efforts include monitoring progress towards the Millennium Declaration and the MDGs, the World Fit for Children Declaration and Plan of Action, the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS and the African Summit on Malaria. UNICEF is spearheading the development of child survival indicators currently used in the Countdown to 2015 initiative.
Analysing data for evidence-based programming
UNICEF’s work in the area of data analysis highlights trends and emphasizes patterns found within the data. It also suggests how these data can be used strategically to inform programmatic efforts. Where possible, data are disaggregated by gender, age, residence, household income, education, and other key social and demographic variables to help uncover possible risk factors and inequities. UNICEF also promotes the advancement of research through the development of joint projects and collaboration with academic institutions and other agencies working at the national and international level.
Through its MICS programme, UNICEF provides in-country technical assistance and leadership to local researchers and organizations, thereby contributing to the improvement of national monitoring systems for children and women. UNICEF also conducts regional workshops on specialized topics in conjunction with government counterparts to enhance their capacity to understand, interpret, analyse, disseminate and use statistics. These workshops cover several objectives ranging from supporting further analysis of malaria data for improved programme monitoring and management and for policy formulation and harmonizing the methodologies used to derive estimates on access to water and sanitation to improving coverage estimates related to HIV and to child and maternal mortality. UNICEF maintains a series of global databases on key indicators found at data.unicef.org
Enhancing data dissemination
Researchers, programme managers and legislators worldwide count on UNICEF data to assess the situation of women and children and to plan and implement related policies and programmes. The media, both locally and internationally, also rely on such data to inform and substantiate their coverage of children and women and the issues that affect their lives.
UNICEF data are used for a variety of planning and monitoring purposes. They appear in UNICEF flagship publications such as The State of the World’s Children and Committing to Child Survival: A promise renewed and in a number of sector-specific reports. These include Progress on Drinking Water and Sanitation; Malaria and Children; and Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting: A statistical overview and exploration of the dynamics of change.
MICS dissemination tools
Tools produced to disseminate MICS data at the country and regional levels include printed materials, presentations, web links and those focusing on the media.
James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.