Combating emergent food and nutrition problems in the North West Region

Following the Food and Nutrition Survey carried out in the North West Region by COMINSUD, findings have been presented in a regional workshop in Bamenda with a cross section of stakeholders including District Medical Officers, Mayors, Delegates and heads of institutions in related works.

Findings were presented on Friday 26 September following the survey carried out by COMINSUD from the 21st July – 15th September 2014 sponsored by SNV. The study sought to understand the stakes and vulnerability factors of population groups with the aim of supporting policy making and development.

The survey was carried out in 10 councils where 30 villages were chosen and distributed in a proportional manner based on the population size of each Division. This activity reached out to 3067 persons in 510 households.

This task was carried out by 20 trained field staff with the expertise of Nutrition specialist and Data analysts. The Surveyors administered two sets of questionnaires to community households; Food security questionnaire which covered households in general and Nutrition questionnaire which covered children (5-59months) and women while taking weights, heights and arm circumference of mothers and children.

The survey used the SMART Methodology, a generic method that provides timely and reliable data in a standardized way for prioritizing human assistance for policy and program decisions.

Mr. Kacho Charles WASH Supervisor of SNV, elaborated on the fact that Nutrition security became a thematic issue consequently there was need for SNV to work on this to device strategies to combat emergent Food and Nutrition problems.

The presentation elaborated on the fact that Food insecurity is generally one of underlying causes of malnutrition or nutrition insecurity. Nutrition security is however a condition when all people at all times consume food of sufficient quantity and quality in terms of variety, diversity, nutrient content and safety to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life, coupled with a sanitary environment, adequate health and care (CFS 2012).

The survey recorded a prevalence rate of global acute malnutrition of 2.6% and 1.0% for severe acute malnutrition. Boys had a lower global acute malnutrition rate than girls by 1%, while severe acute malnutrition was highest in age group 30 – 41 months. A number of primary and secondary causes can account for the high food insecure and malnourished population ranging from poor food consumption patterns, outdated agricultural practices, low education levels, poor sanitation practices alongside distant and inadequately equipped health facilities.

17.6% of the households in the surveyed area face alarming situation of food insecurity. This contrast with the Comprehensive Food Security Vulnerability Analysis Report for Cameroon carried out in 2011 which reported only 0.7% of the population in the North West Region with poor food consumption and 5.5% in 2007.

The population could have a low level of household food production and less diversity, poor storage and conservation system and high poverty levels to access sufficient quantities of food items from other sources consequently leading to food insecurity.

Mr Matoya Cletus, North West Region Delegate of Commerce emphasised on rejuvenating mindsets of farmers to do things with long term vision citing the case of the Bamenda- Ekok high way leading to Nigeria where buyers come right into the farm to purchase farm produce.

Following presentation findings, a number of recommendations were put forward for action some of which were;

A broad multi-sector and integrated approach is implemented in the North West Region to improve food security and reduce the vulnerability of both rural and urban households.

An increase agricultural output targeting agriculturalists and develop vocational skills and capacities targeting labourers and vulnerable small holder farmers such as limited access to land

More research to find out methods used in food preparation which could influence the nutritional content and sensitization on food preparation methods to retain required nutrients

The need to educate adults especially in rural communities on disease prevention including treatment of drinking water through boiling as 89% of households reported not using any method of treatment on drinking water.

And on mother and child health, families should be educated on the importance of hospital deliveries that ensures specialised medical attention not leaving out Constitution of balance diet using locally available food stuffs.

It is worth noting that similar studies were also done in the East and Far North Regions and all three results will be presented in a National Workshop to be held in Yaounde this October.

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Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINSUD) is an organisation dedicated to sustainable development in the Northwest Region of Cameroon. COMINSUDs main office is located in Ntarinkon but she works throughout the North West Region to improve the lives and livelihoods of Cameroonians. Focusing on projects and programs of democracy, women's empowerment and good governance, COMINSUD aims to work with rural communities towards a better and more sustainable future.