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Media Partner In Scaling Up Malaria Control In Cameroon 

By Ernest Sumelong

Media owners and managers in the Southwest and Northwest Regions have agreed to work with Government and its major partner, Global Fund, in the fight against malaria. They will engage in actions to sensitise the public on preventing and combating the illness in the country.

Workshop facilitators; Ofal, Dr. Tchekounkouo and Keumeni, talking to media managers

The media managers met for a two-day workshop on; "Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact in Cameroon", that took place in Bafut, Northwest Region, from June 30 to July 1. The Post learnt that the Bafut workshop was one of three workshops bringing together media owners and managers of public, private and community media outlets throughout the country, to play a leading role in sensitising the public about the project.

Having been enlightened about the project and its objectives and what role the media should play, participants committed their media outfits to be partners in the "Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact in Cameroon" project.

"Scaling Up Malaria Control for Impact in Cameroon" is an initiative of the Cameroon Government, which is being funded by the Global Fund, under the Global Fund Round 9 Malaria Project, to run from January 2011 to December 2015. The project aims at reducing by 50 percent morbidity and mortality related to malaria by 2015.

This would be achieved by distributing some eight million long-lasting insecticidal nets to the entire population, and ensure that, at least, over 80 percent of the population, especially pregnant women and children less than five years sleep under them.

Stakeholders in the campaign also hope to treat at least 80 percent of malaria cases on the national territory, while reinforcing the management capacity of the National Malaria Control Programme. To ensure its success, Government, through the Ministry of Public Health, is working with Civil Society Organisations to implement the project.

Thus, the National Malaria Control Programme, Plan Cameroon, Association Camerounaise pour le Marketing Social, ACMS, Malaria Consortium-Cameroon Coalition Against Malaria, MC-CCAM, and Institut pour la Recherch, le developpement Socio-economique et la Communication, IRESCO, are working together at different levels. Thousands of community based organisations and other actors would be trained to implement it.

To achieve greater success, the media was given pride of place and called to be a partner. At the end of the workshop, participants designed what they deemed were best ways of handling communication and sensitisation. These, among other things, involved formulating programmes and creating columns in audio visual and print media in order to better reach the public.

According to Florine Keumeni, Zonal Health Coordinator, Global Fund Round 9 Malaria Project under MC-CCAM and facilitator at the workshop, they would involve every sector of the population, including community-based organisations and traditional and religious authorities.

"We are very optimistic about the project achieving its objective of touching every segment of the population as malaria concerns everyone. The project has been well designed and everything is being done to ensure its success. We will engage is huge sensitisation and mobilisation campaign to get all on board," Keumeni said.

James Utia Ofal, Zonal Health Coordinator, Global Fund Malaria Project, Plan Cameroon, and Dr. Odile Tchekountouo, Coordinator of the Regional Malaria Control Unit, corroborated Keumeni. They were pleased with the working spirit at the workshop and the commitment and partnership in the project.

Ernest Kanjo, a representative of IRESCO, highlighted a communication plan designed to meet the various sectors of the population during the campaign. Opening the workshop, Northwest Delegate of Public Health, Dr. Victor Ndiforchu, said previous health campaigns failed because they excluded the media. He said the media was the backbone of the success of the project.

Exhorting the media to play its role well, he emphasised on the judicious and transparent use of resources, so that the project should have impact in the country. Malaria remains the leading cause of disease and death among children under five in Cameroon. It is responsible for 44 percent of cases of diseases among pregnant women and cause of 48 percent of hospitalisation.

Thus, according to health officials, it causes poverty as it reduces the income of the average household in Cameroon. Even though it is considered number one killer in Africa, it is preventable through hygiene and sanitation and by sleeping under treated mosquito nets.

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