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Ongoing operational research project on "breast ironing, breastfeeding & infant mortality in Cameroon”

Within the framework of operational research, IRESCO and the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Milan are conducting, with the collaboration of RENATA, an operational research project on "breast ironing, breastfeeding & infant mortality in Cameroon”. Indeed, ironing the breasts of young girls (08-17 years old) is a practice strongly observed in Cameroon, and mainly in the Centre, East, Littoral and West regions. According to medical experts, this practice could contribute to infection, fever, tissue damage and complete destruction of the mammary glands, eventually leading to breast cancer (US Department of State, 2010). Breast ironing is considered a human rights violation by the United Nations. It is in response to this harmful practice for the health of young girls that Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in collaboration with IRESCO and RENATA have developed an operational research project aimed at significantly reducing this cultural practice harmful to the health of women in Cameroon.
This project aims to test two alternative intervention approaches aimed at reducing the practice of breast ironing, in order to identify which one has the best impact at the lowest cost. For this purpose, the design of a randomized controlled trial with a control group and various treatments was designed.
The objectives of this project are to highlight the reasons for the perpetuation of breast ironing in Cameroon, by examining its correlation with breastfeeding and infant mortality, and to test an intervention capable of reducing its prevalence. Specifically, the aim is to (i) rigorously assess the prevalence of breast ironing in the targeted regions; (ii) Identify the reasons for the persistence of this practice; and (iii) to assess the potential adverse health consequences associated with breast ironing, such as reduced breastfeeding duration and infant/child mortality.
The target of the project is made up of mothers and girls aged 8 to 15 in three regions (East, West and Littoral) of Cameroon.
The research has three main components: (i) a baseline survey, which has already been completed, (ii) an alternative intervention, which is ongoing, and (iii) two additional data collections (i.e. mid-term data collection and a final data collection), not carried out.

The mechanism provides for a basic quantitative data collection before the start of the intervention and possibly two additional data collections (ie a mid-term data collection and a final data collection). The duration of the project is one year, but with interruptions in the implementation schedule.