Community groups improve child and maternal health
Community groups in Cameroon’s Ngoketunjia district have developed and maintained good maternal and child healthcare practices to fight high levels of child mortality through Plan’s Expanded Impact Child Survival project (EIP).
Brigitte, a mother from the community of Ngwalla, said: “It has taught me how to monitor a child, to know whether he or she is growing normally or not, and how to prepare a child’s food.”
It was discovered that 70 out of every 1,000 children born in the Ngoketunjia area die before reaching the age of 2, and research into the causes found that most of the children who die are the children of HIV-positive mothers.
Because of their fragile health conditions, the mothers find it difficult to provide sufficient food for their children or appropriate medical care. As a result, many children suffer from malnutrition, and become vulnerable to common illnesses in the area, such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, and anemia.
What’s more, the virus sees many children orphaned and their care normally falls in to the hands of elderly relatives who are ill-equipped and often physically unable to provide the care they need.
But EIP is a comprehensive, long-term project to improve the health of mothers and children under 5 throughout Cameroon, with particular focus on nutrition, malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea.
Training and support in childcare
EIP is being implemented with Ngoketunjia Aids Fighters (NAFI) who have already helped establish 74 community groups across the Ngoketunjia and Bui districts and provide each group with community-based training and support in effective childcare, including good health, nutrition and the benefits of immunization.
Mothers and their communities are mobilized to form community groups, which then spread the message of children’s health to the wider community. They are trained to regularly monitor their children’s weight to prevent malnutrition and practice good healthcare by using treated bed nets, water guards and by washing hands.
Elderly relatives receive training in nutrition and how to generate more income, and Plan works with communities to create activities for them that are less physically demanding, such as selling palm oil.
Pascaline, a mother from the Bonkisherie community, said: “[EIP] has helped me in breast feeding, knowing the importance of introducing the child to the breast immediately after delivery.” According to NAFI’s coordinator, Nkwain Joseph, “we provide encouragement to families through education and support in respect of child nutrition and care.”
Forkinyin, from the Ngwalla community, added: “As a mother, I can now more easily detect an illness in a child. It has cut the alarming rate of disease in my family and community.”