UNICEF
UNICEF

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has commended the Tema Metropolitan Health Directorate (TMHD) for effectively implementing the Girls Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) programme.

The GIFTS programme is a collaborative initiative between the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Ghana Education Service (GES) and UNICEF and other key partners to provide iron and folic acid supplements to adolescents, in and out of schools once a week in accordance with the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

Ms Ruth Situma, UNICEF Ghana Nutritionist, expressed her joy at the well-coordinated manner the GIFTS programme was being implemented in the industrial cum harbour city in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Tema.

Ms Situma, accompanied by Mrs Faustina Vimariba Toure, Greater Accra Regional Nutrition Officer, GHS, and Mr Samuel Atuahene Antwi, Tema Metropolitan Nutritionist, TMHD, visited and interacted with girls benefiting from the supplements in Tema.

She said even though there were logistical challenges, teachers in the various schools especially, Mexico Basic School, had put in innovations to ensure that the supplements were successfully dispensed.

She stated, “I was particularly impressed that the implementation of the programmes had not been left solely in the hands of the focal person but rather all teachers were actively involved”.

The UNICEF Nutritionist also observed that from discussion with the schools, she realized that the team was working on misconceptions people had had about the supplements indicating that consent forms and sensitization programmes carried out for parents, adolescents and the community were very commendable and must be replicated in other jurisdictions.

She reminded Ghanaians that anaemia in adolescent girls was not peculiar to Ghana therefore the need to embrace the GIFT programme as it was being implemented in other countries.

Mrs Toure, on her part, said “we want to appeal to parents and guardians to understand that GIFTS was a supplement not medicine, so they must encourage their girls both in and out of school to take it,” adding that the supplement was not made specifically for girls “so everyone could take it”.

She explain however that due to logistical constraints, her outfit was concentrating on the girls due to their physiology and the fact that they lost some nutrients monthly stating that according to the Ghana Demographic Health Survey, girls’ anaemia level was higher than that of boys.

She said to change the perception that the supplement was girl specific, some schools in Tema and Accra gave the supplement to boys and male teachers as well.

According to her, the initial challenge of getting out of school adolescents to access the supplements at the health centres and CHPS compound had been improved due to the education they carried out in the communities.

She added that they were engaging identified artisan groups to find a way to use their leaders to administer it to the apprentices.

The Greater Accra Regional Nutritionist gave the assurance that they were bringing on-board private schools in the region to ensure a wider coverage since her outfit initially commenced the programme with the public schools due to logistical constraints.

Mr Antwi thanked the GES for partnering the UNICEF and GHS to implement the programme saying, the teachers had done a great job revealing that one of the beneficiary girls who was now in Senior High School had become a voluntary ambassador of GIFTS, sharing her testimony on the benefits of the supplement while encouraging her peers to embrace it.

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