The Problem

  • In Cameroon, almost 40% of the population of children under five years old is at risk of vitamin A deficiency (VAD), with rates exceeding 62% in the North region.  
  • An estimated 50,000 children die due to various forms of malnutrition every year in Cameroon.
  • The national prevalence of anemia among children under five years old is almost 57%, with rates as high as 67% in certain regions. Anemia is also a major contributor to maternal mortality, and anemia rates among pregnant women exceed 52%; 360 pregnant women die each year because they are severely anemic.
  • Onchocerciasis, lymphatic filiariasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal helminthiasis are endemic diseases.

What HKI Is Doing

Helen Keller International has been operating in Cameroon since 1992 and works in all regions of the country with activities concentrated in the Center, the Far-North and the East Regions. Current programs include:

Vitamin A Supplementation (VAS)
HKI’s work with Vitamin A supplementation (VAS) began in Cameroon in 1998. Between 2003 and 2007, HKI worked to integrate capsule distribution into other interventions, such as CDTI, local immunization days, and routine immunization activities.

Since 2008, national Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Action Weeks (MCHNAW) have been organized twice yearly to provide high-impact interventions that address child survival and maternal mortality. In June 2009, the MCHNAW included vitamin A supplementation for children 6 to 59 months and women of reproductive age. Other interventions offered included de-worming for preschoolers 12 to 59 months, measles immunization for children 9 to 59 months, polio vaccines for all children under 5, and treatments for pregnant women. 

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Child Survival
Helen Keller International aims to reduce infant and youth mortality by improving nutrition, and controlling malaria, diarrhoeal diseases, and severe respiratory infections. HKI’s Expand Impact Child Survival Project targets over 5 million people in 3 regions; beneficiaries include 190,985 children under 5 and 244,036 women of child-bearing age. HKI advocated for the adaption and implementation of a new WHO/UNICEF recommendation to treat diarrhea with low-osmolarity rehydration salt and zinc supplements. In 2009, children with diarrhea started benefiting from this high-impact treatment.

Essential Nutrition Actions
Helen Keller International, UNICEF and the government are working together to promote an Essential Nutrition Actions package in the health districts of the Far North region of Cameroon. This area has a large number of refugees from Chad, and the total population, including Cameroonians, of 2,400,000 is targeted in the seven health districts involved. Training of 2,310 community workers and 103 extension workers, including health personnel, communicators, NGO staff, etc. has already been accomplished.

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Food Fortification
In 2008, building on the success of its Fortify West Africa initiative, HKI began a food fortification project in Cameroon to fortify cooking oil with vitamin A and flour with iron and folic acid. HKI advocated for the establishment of the Food Fortification Alliance, which was created by the Government in December 2008. An industrial assessment of the main cooking oil and wheat flour producers has been conducted in collaboration with our partners. HKI has also begun a study to assess food intake to help to determine the proper level of fortificants needed. Later phases of the project include engaging in social marketing to promote the consumption of fortified products.

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Onchocerciasis Control
Helen Keller International provides technical assistance and supervises trainings for health professionals, community distributors, and other community leaders to implement and monitor the Community Directed Treatment with Ivermectin (CDTI) program as part of our onchocerciasis control efforts.  We develop educational training and advocacy materials and provide monitoring and evaluation. HKI works in three regions of Cameroon – East, Far North and Center – and reached 875,230 people in 2008.

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Soil-Transmitted Helminth (STH) Control
The goals of HKI’s helminth control program are to stop the spread of filarial infection, onchocerciasis, schistosomiasis and intestinal worms and to alleviate the suffering of those already afflicted by these diseases. De-worming is one of the interventions provided during the Maternal and Child Health and Nutrition Action Weeks. In 2008, 1,900,000 children aged 12-59 months years were treated.

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