Health News Sat, 10 Feb 2007

Three northern regions consume less iodised salt - Nutritionist

Nyankpala (N/R), Feb 10, GNA - In spite of intensive public education by the Ministry of Health, more than 80 per cent of the population in the Northern, Upper West and Upper East Regions do not consume iodised salt.

Hajia Amadu Azara, Northern Regional Nutrition Officer, noted that the situation was of grave concern to the Ministry due to the negative effects of iodine deficiency on the cognitive development of children and labour difficulties resulting in maternal and infant deaths. She made the observation at the launch of the annual celebration of "Nutrition Week" of the Association of Community Nutrition Students (ASCONS) of the University for Development Studies (UDS) at Nyankpala, in the Tolon/Kumbungu District on Friday.

The weeklong celebration on the theme, "Appropriate and timely complementary feeding, Vitamin "A" and Iodine rich food consumption - Effective ways to promote child and maternal health", is being sponsored by UNICEF with support from UNILEVER Ghana Limited and the Ghana Health Service.

The Regional Nutrition Officer attributed the high intake of un-iodated salt among the people of the three regions to "unscrupulous traders who connive with officers at our borders to bring unfortified salt into the Ghanaian market".

Hajia Azara said there was an average loss of intelligence quotient (IQ) by about 13.5 points in iodine deficient communities. She stated that many deaths could be prevented if people took their eating habits more seriously adding, "In Ghana, the overall burden of malnutrition is increasing due to food insecurity, poor eating habits and lifestyles".

Hajia Azara quoting the 2003 Ghana Demographic Health Survey, said 81 per cent of children of five years of age were anaemic, 72 per cent vitamin "A" deficient while over 371,000 were suffering from various forms of iodine deficiency disorders.

Even though the people had knowledge about complementary feeding, they do not practice it, she stated and said, "Appropriate complementary feeding is not the expensive baby foods we have in the super markets but the rich locally prepared weaning mix".

Mr. Humphrey Garti, Head of the Nutrition Department of the UDS, said the introduction of the Community Nutrition Programme in the University had opened new trends for the community to understand and participate effectively in designing affordable nutritional requirements.

He stated that the Department had since 1999, turned out graduates including lecturers, dieticians and district nutrition officers contributing immensely to national development.

Mr. Wahab Suhiyini Wumbei, Tolon/Kumbungu District Chief Executive, urged members of ASCONS to educate the people on how to prepare and eat balanced diet.

He told the people to discount the perception that certain foods were not for children and advised them not to sell the best of their farm produce that they needed themselves for their healthy growth. Mr. Agbeve Abdul-Wahab, President of ASCONS, said the Association would carry out its advocacy and research activities involving 120 students in 45 districts. 10 Feb 07

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Source: GNA