The Upper West Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has called on the media to champion the campaign for the Girls Iron Folate Tablet Supplement (GIFTS) among the target groups.
The GHS is currently implementing the GIFTS programme in the region in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund and the Ghana Education Service (GES) aimed at reducing anemia among adolescent girls.
The initiative followed recommendation of the World Health Organisation (WHO) for mass administration of Iron Folic Acid supplement for menstruating women when the anemia prevalence rate exceeded 40 per cent.
Mr Anthony Kulah, the Upper West Regional Nutrition Officer, who made the call in Wa during an engagement, said the programme faced setbacks including wild misconceptions and myths by some members of the public about GIFTS.
The implementation of the GIFTS programme started in 2019 in the region but had since been met with some misconceptions such as the supplement was for birth control, the children were used for experiment, and it was a fertility pill.
The GIFTS was administered to 595 adolescent girls in primary, junior and senior high schools, and technical vocational education and training institutions, who were menstruating as well as out-of-school adolescent girls aged 10 to 19 years.
Mr Kulah said the GIFTS programme became necessary following its success in the Northern and Volta regions where the first phase was implemented with a 26 per cent reduction in anemia cases.
While stressing the need for its uptake, he said anemia had dire consequences on the child including reduced resistance to infections, poor memory, and poor learning performance among others.
“Among women, those within the adolescent age group of 15 to 19 years, and pregnant women have the highest prevalence levels (anemia) of 48 per cent and 45 per cent respectively.”
“In women, anemia during pregnancy may lead to poor foetal brain development, low birth weight, pre-term delivery, stillbirth, neonatal death, post-partum hemorrhage, and death,” Mr Kulah explained.
He, however, said the onset of childbearing among women required high levels of nutrients, hence the need for folic acid for rapid production of red blood cells.
Mr Simon Peter Ansogletuo, the Upper West Regional School Health Education Programme Coordinator, said through rigorous sensitisation some of the misconceptions about the GIFTS programme had been cleared up.
He gave the assurance that the GES would champion the implementation of the programme in the schools to ensure it achieved its objectives.