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General News Wed, 23 Mar 2005

GHS develops concept paper to address malnutrition

Accra, March 23, GNA - Ghana could lose nearly 300 million dollars in terms of future productivity as a direct result of poor nutritional status of the country's children, reveals a recent demographic and health survey.

Data from the survey indicates that nearly a third of Ghanaian children were stunted as a result of poor feeding habits. At the launch of a concept paper on Tuesday to reverse this negative trend, Health Minister Major Courage Quashigah (Rtd) noted that if the present levels of malnutrition, especially among 0-59 month-old kids, were not reduced within the next five years, malnutrition would account for more than 250,000 childhood deaths.

Major Quashigah held that malnutrition is a health problem and poses medical, social and economic problems that could only be effectively tackled in a developmental context.

The concept paper titled: "Imagine Ghana Free of Malnutrition," was developed by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to address malnutrition in the country, which it had identified as a developmental problem. Maj. Quashigah said it was very worrying that a country such as Ghana, which is endowed with diverse and abundant natural and nutritious food resources, should be facing severe nutritional inadequacy.

"The situation becomes even more disturbing when one realises that most children in fishing communities still suffer from malnutrition due to poor protein in-take, "he added, and called for a massive community education to reduce the trend.

Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director-General of the GHS, bemoaned the current poor health indicators on malnutrition, saying, a large size of the vulnerable group made up of children, adolescents and women were found to be either underweight or obese.

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He explained that malnutrition results from imbalances between the body's needs and the intake of nutrients, which lead to syndromes of deficiency, dependency, toxicity or obesity.

This accounts for about 50 percent of infant and maternal motility, as well as stunted in adolescents, he added.

Prof. Akosa said the paper had a 14-point strategic objective that include the promotion and adoption of exclusive breastfeeding, promotion of appropriate complementary feeding of children after six months and improving nutritional status of children in basic schools.

The Ghana Education Service and the Ministry of Education and Sports will also use the paper as a platform to develop a policy for improved feeding and nutrition for all Senior Secondary Schools and improve the nutritional status of People Living with HIV/AIDS, he said and urged all stakeholders to be committed to the initiative to help make malnutrition a history in Ghana.

First Lady Theresa Kufuor, who launched the initiative, commended the Ministry of Health, the GHS, as well as other Ministries and Agencies that had existing programmes to combat malnutrition, anaemia and other related deficiencies, and called on all stakeholders to collaborate to eradicate malnutrition.

Mrs Kufuor also called for the abolishment of unhealthy customary practices that prevent children and women from eating certain nutritious foods. She advocated for the empowerment of rural women through education to enable them make informed decisions on quality diets for their families. .

Source: GNA
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