The First Lady Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has called for concerted efforts of all citizens in taking action and providing the needed funding to help end child malnutrition, malaria or other preventable illnesses in the country.
She said there was also the need to act quickly to avert the risk that the COVID-19 pandemic could pose to nutrition due to disruption of food supplies, calling for the need to safeguard food and nutrition security.
“We risk disruptions to our food systems. We also risk income loss, which could prevent children and women from accessing nutritious diets and essential nutrition services,” Mrs Akufo-Addo warned on Wednesday in Accra at the onset of a Nutrition Advocacy programme.
Dubbed the “Nutrition Advocacy and Community Mobilisation Event,” the programme was being championed by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), UNICEF, World Health Organisation, and the Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation, an NGO co-funded by Mrs Akufo-Addo.
The campaign would also involve the engagement of Queen Mothers, faith based practitioners and media personnel to promote good nutrition among women, children and girls at the community level.
The First Lady commended the collaborators for coming together to promote the health of children and especially adolescent girls, and vowed to work hard towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by ensuring the decline in the prevalence of malnutrition and its resultant ill- health and death among children.
She emphasized that there was no need for any child to die from malnutrition, malaria or other preventable illness in Ghana and “so together with Malaria Prevention Foundation, our partners and stakeholders, I stand committed to the task that is ahead of us”, she said.
Mrs Akufo-Addo acknowledged that a lot of work had been done by different stakeholders that had help see a decline in the prevalence of malnutrition and its resultant ill-health and death among children.
However, current levels of stunting, anemia in women of reproductive years, including adolescent girls and increasing trends in obesity was worrying.
She said while the country tried to control the spread of the Coronavirus and increase access to life saving vaccines, there was the need to safeguard food and nutrition security.
“We must also improve feeding and increase community actions that promote and protect the lives of women, adolescents and children.
She also appealed to all stakeholders to help continue to strengthen school based interventions and to support the girls iron initiative, which marked the beginning of an innovative initiative, to provide iron and folic acid supplements to girls, to reduce the prevailing high anaemia rates and set them on a path to improved health and development.
She called for the intensification of efforts to promote six months exclusive breastfeeding for all children, and advocate work places, markets, churches and other public places, to provide convenient spaces for mothers to breastfeed their babies.
Madam Ann Clare Dufey, Country Representative of UNICEF said millions of children in Ghana were missing out on the many nutrition campaigns being rolled out in the country, and that one in five children were still stunted, and several inches shorter than they could have been.
“Their immune systems are also weaker, leaving them more vulnerable to diseases… It affects the development of the brain, leaving children unable to learn”, she explained.
She therefore, called on the Ghana Education Service, parents, religious leaders and the entire community to help in promoting the uptake of iron folic tablets as a supplement by especially girls to boost their immunity and proper growth.
They should also be educated to eat healthy and nutrition food, Madam Dufey said.
She said there was the need for Ghana to also enforce national legislation and ban the aggressive marketing of products that undermine breastfeeding and regulate the marketing of bottled water to infants.
Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, Minister of Health, said maternal and child health and nutrition had become a key right issues and that the Government was committed to promoting health, and equitable health force, tightening the health issuance programme, as well as supporting initiative towards child survival and health at the community level.
Mr Francis Kasolo, the World Health Organization Representative, said good nutrition was a major factor in countries attaining SDGS, however, globally in 2020, 149 million children under five years were estimated to be stunted, 45 million wasted and 39 million overweight.
“Malnutrition for example, increases health costs, reduces productivity and slows economic growth”, he said.
He called for the strengthening of engagements of communities and the media to support implementation of essential nutrition interventions that were evidence-based and proven to be effective.