By Ndi Eugene Ndi
Yaounde-based Julius & Anne (J & A) Oben Foundation has called on pressmen and communicators to take upon themselves the task to sensitize the public and those in position of power on aspects of nutrition.
This was after a four-day training on reporting nutrition issues that took place at the Foundation’s headquarters located in the Damase neighborhhod in the Yaounde III Sub Division. The training from February 2-5 was organised in collaboration with Scaling Up Nutrition, (SUN) Cameroun and Helen Keller International (HKI).
Addressing the participants drawn from different media organs across the country, Prof. Julius Oben, Co-Founder and President of the J & A Oben Foundation said the training was essential, as nutrition challenges are a global concern.
The deficiencies in nutrition, he said, are not only a problem akin to Cameroon but the entire world. “A lot of time and energy is being put into trying to solve the problem but you realise that we are not getting anywhere, reason why we are looking at different strategies of getting around this problem,” he said.
The pressmen that were trained, he explained, have a key role by transmitting the message to stakeholders. He said the Foundation was not training them how to be journalists, but giving the close to 20 participants the technical aspects of nutrition and malnutrition which can help them to put it in their own way.
“They are communicators, they know the language the population will like to hear and understand. Once that is done, and people of all different strata of society know and understand that malnutrition is a problem, and could be solved, then we will know that we are making progress” Prof Oben added.
Dr GodsWill Ntsomboh, Research Associate at the Foundation and facilitator at the training session said the position of journalists and the credibility they have, already makes them focal points to influence nutritional habits.
The public he said, “receives what the communicator gives… We want to make sure that journalists contribute to improve on the nutrition status of Cameroon with evidence-based information…They have to receive this training which is meant to give them a scientific background and information which they need to be more efficient on the field”.
“The message has to be taken by everybody; it has to get to every strata of society to be able to effectively tackle the problem of malnutrition” GodsWill Ntsomboh explained.
To Malaika Doualla, Coordinator of the J & A Oben Foundation, “the objective of the training is to introduce participants to the fundamentals of nutrition and…familiarise with regulatory framework existing in Cameroon and worldwide relating to nutrition”.
Carried out in collaboration with the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, she explained that the collaboration was essential to record a greater impact. “The partnership,” Malaika said, “is important because we came to realise that we have other organisations that have the same visions as us and the vision of this is to be able to bridge the gap between good nutrition and malnutrition and we are out to encourage good nutrition for everybody”.
“You don’t need to be rich to eat well. I believe that our country is blessed with fertile soils. It is time we consume local products. They are not expensive” the Foundation coordinator added.
A similar message was reechoed by Ismael Teta, Country Director for Helen Keller International. “You all make history by being the country’s first ever pressmen to be trained and awarded certificates on nutrition” he told the trainees, noting that it should be reflected in the lives they lead as well as the nature of reports they produce.
Pressmen accept challenge
Participants at the training on their part, acknowledged the need to be drilled on the nutrition sector as well as its importance in their newsrooms.
“A training like this opens journalists to more opportunities to learn more about nutrition, terminologies to use. Where I come from, you know there is a crisis there and I think a training like this is going to help us understand how those people in the bushes access some of their basic food necessities because we have not been able to access those areas due to insecurity” explained Pelajie Nanji who works with LTM TV as Buea Bureau Chief.
Doh Bertrand, reporter at The Median newspaper and participant at the training expressed a similar view. The training, he noted, gave him a better perspective of the health sector as a whole and nutrition in particular, as well as the necessity to sensitise all stakeholder.
“It has been a great training, I learnt a lot of things in relation to nutrition and I have seen the need for us journalists and communicators to go back to our media organs and sensitise the population on what to eat and what to take when and how, especially pregnant women” he said.
He added that “hygiene and sanitation remains a major concern to so many things that are being sold on the streets and so with what I have gathered here, it will help me to create a column in our organ where I will sensitise the population on nutrition related issues”.
Government urged to establish nutrition policy
For efforts to enhance nutritional habits in Cameron to be effective, Prof Julius Oben told reporters it is necessary for government to officialise its efforts through a policy.
The J & A Oben Foundation President remarked that despite decades of efforts by government and other stakeholders, little change was being witnessed, leading to an alarming rate of malnutrition with a high prevalence rate recorded in the Far North, North and Adamawa regions.
“It means that either we are not doing what we are supposed to do, or we are doing things wrongly. Why don’t we try something else? why don’t we get journalists, communicators involved to see if we can get different results. We should think of changing our strategy and this is it” said the professor.
“If you think of these children who are malnourished between 0 and 5 years, that actually follows them throughout their lives because if you are malnourished at that age you cannot even reach your full potential. Let us officialise this policy on nutrition” he appealed to authorities.
Officialising policy, he said, “has to be done because nutrition is so important. We are talking about health. Many health situations are related to malnutrition…if there is one message that has to go across to government, it is that let us officialise this policy on nutrition.”
He elucidated that “all the documentation is there. Please Mr. Prime Minister just sign it. Sign it. Your service has done all that needs to be done. All specialists have worked on it. The document is ready for signature. Mr. Prime Minister please sign it” Prof Oben pleaded.
To journalists, Prof Julius Oben urged that they should not relent to give nutrition the attention it deserves. “Please go out and make nutrition visible, make people know that there is a problem of nutrition in Cameroon. Make people know that government needs to do more” he pressed.
“Do as much as you can in your different capacities as journalists, as communicators to make nutrition a talking point” the Co-Founder of the J & A Oben Foundation added.
At the end of the four-day training, certificates were given to all participating journalists. They were also given cash prizes for nutrition-related articles produced during the training.
Founded by Mrs. Anne Oben and her husband, Professor Julius Oben, the J & A Oben Foundation has as mission to bridge the knowledge gap between food availability and a healthy lifestyle; raising awareness on the link between optimal nutrition, health and quality of life in Cameroon, Africa and the world.