NewsWest AfricaGhana: UNICEF improves child nutrition


Posted on Friday, 18 March 2016 15:58

Ghana: UNICEF improves child nutrition

By Dasmani Laary

File photo©ReutersBold interventions launched by the United Nations International Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in one of Ghana's poorest regions, Volta, has significantly reduced stunted growth incidents and improved nutrition among children and pregnant women, health officials reported.

Stunted growth among children below 5 years was slashed significantly in 2015, while the malnourishment rate also improved massively in the last two years, the Volta regional nutrition officer told the child rights body's team visiting the region to monitor progress.

we need to have an official policy now and pay attention to eating quality food and this will reduce huge government expenditure on hospitals

"I must say that since UNICEF came here in 2013, we have been able to reduce stunting among children below five years from 27 per cent in 2008 to 19 per cent in 2015," Nutifafa Glover told the team in Ho, the regional capital.

"The underweight rate of children below five came down to 9.8 per cent in 2015 from 12.1 per cent, as you can also see from the chart the nutritional level of pregnant women has improved significantly."

The UNICEF country representative, Susan Namondo Ngongi, was ecstatic that interventions tailored with local initiatives had helped tame stunted growth and improved nutrition among many mothers and pregnant women.

The impact of good diet and cleanliness, officials say if well observed, was crucial for survival and labour efficiency, as it could boost the intelligence quotient (IQ) and raise productivity to spur economic growth.

"Nutrition is fundamental to development and how we nourish our children determines how strong we are, it improves children's brains, the impact is important during young ages," Ngongi said at a meeting in Jordanu, a local community in the district.

"The twin brother of nutrition is sanitation, and I am happy both good nutrition and sanitation practices are being observed here, the progress is very encouraging."

An estimated 13 per cent of children in the West African country are reported to be stunted, while another 13 per cent of children below five years are underweight, with 57 per cent of children in that age group suffering from anaemia.

Nutrition problems that often affect children in their first 1 000 days of life are micronutrient deficiencies and the most common in Ghana is iron deficiency.

Many children also suffer Vitamin A deficiency, which is essential for the functioning of the immune system, and, therefore, increases children's resistance to disease and improves their chances of survival, growth and development, health experts say.

A a nutrition specialist with UNICEF Ghana, Lillian Selenje, told The Africa Report that problem of malnutrition, stunting and anaemia in the country was quite serious and needed clear policy direction and a national action plan with strategies to deal with the situation.

"The Ghana government will have to develop a policy on nutrition and come out with an action plan to tame the growing stunting, control anaemia especially among pregnant women as well as improve nutrition," she said.

"We have a significant number of children who are stunted, we are talking about more than 2 million children," she said, "who die and these are preventable."

"There is significant number that is malnourished, abbot 10,000 children are severely malnourished but this number could be higher, maybe about 40,000."

Nutrition specialists say about 70 to 80 per cent of Ghanaian children are anaemic, while one in two pregnant women are also anaemic and required urgent intervention.

"Ghana needs to make nutrition a national priority, we need to have an official policy now and pay attention to eating quality food and this will reduce huge government expenditure on hospitals," Selenje said.

UNICEF is supporting the Ghana's health service to scale up community level support to improve infant and children feeding practices in all 10 regions of Ghana.

The fund has also supported the health service to address severe acute malnutrition by scaling up intervention programmes in the three regions of northern Ghana.

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