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This blog entry was written by Austen Musso, Program Manager for Vitamin Angels.
After 4 days of travel, we arrived in the rural village of Esu in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. Though over 40,000 people living in the lush hilly community of Esu, there is only one small primary government health facility. In 2007, the Cameroon Christian Welfare Foundation (CAMWEF) opened up the only private health care clinic in the community to help fill the need for quality, low cost health care services.
Now with the support of Vitamin Angels, CAMCWEF can provide free vitamin A supplements, Albendazole and multivitamins to children under five, while pregnant and breastfeeding mothers receive specially formulated multivitamins. Vitamin Angels’ Technical Specialist, Eva Haase, and I visited CAMCWEF in Cameroon because Vitamin Angels seeks to empower indigenous NGOs to combat micronutrient deficiency in their communities. We do this not only by providing them with micronutrient supplements, but also by offering technical materials and capacity building courses so all grantee organizations can distribute vitamins in the field according to international best practices.
In 2013, Vitamin Angels will be making micronutrient grants to at least five Cameroonian NGOs-- reaching over 150,000 children between 6-59 months of age in areas not targeted by government health services. The government currently lacks the resources and coordination to reach the full population in many communities; consequently, 36% of children under five suffer from vitamin A deficiency (the under five mortality rate was 136 per 1,000 live births in 2010). The five NGOs Vitamin Angels is working with play a vital role in distributing micronutrient supplements to communities with the most need.
In preparation for many of the micronutrient distributions in 2013, Eva and I traveled to Esu to host two 8-hour courses on vitamin A supplementation for health service providers from our five current grantee organizations in Cameroon. Participants traveled to Esu from all corners of Cameroon to attend these day-long courses, including two representatives from CAMFODA who traveled over 40 hours by bus each way from their office in the Far North Region of Cameroon.
Even with limited power, no running water, and no internet, a total of 27 field partner representatives received hands-on, practical instruction on vitamin A supplementation and distribution during our week in Cameroon. The Vitamin Angels’ learning course also provided these participants with step-by-step instructions and the opportunity to participate in practical distribution simulations. I was very impressed by all five organizations, which were represented at these courses. I am confident that representatives from each organization will continue to share what they have learned with their fellow health providers to help ensure the success of future vitamin A distributions in Cameroon.
Together with local grass roots organizations like CAMWEF, Vitamin Angels continues to help at-risk populations, like those we met in Cameroon, gain access to lifesaving vitamin A.
**A special thank you to Mr. Nji Chi Polycarp of CAMCWEF and Aliu Umaru of Aids Free Africa for their assistance in making this visit to Cameroon a great success.