Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, the First Lady, has said anemia prevailing rates among women and children in the country are threatening.
She said available data indicates that over four in every 10 women are aneamic, representing 48 per cent in adolescent girls and 50 per cent in pregnant women.
Mrs Akufo-Addo made this known when she was speaking at the launch of the Girls Iron and Folic Acid Tablet Supplementation (GIFT) programme on Wednesday in Sunyani.
The GIFT programme, which aims to reduce the persistently high levels of anaemia in women, is the first large scale Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation in Ghana being started in four regions; Brong-Ahafo, Volta, Northern and Upper East.
It would serve about 360,000 in-school adolescent girls and close to 600,000 out-of-school girls to improve the quality of nutrition for women, girls and children.
Initiated by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service (GES), with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the programme seeks to provide iron and folic acid supplements adolescent girls and adult women to reduce the prevailing high anaemia rates in the country.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said the consequences of anaemia were many and that “in adolescents it limits their development, learning ability, reduces concentration in daily tasks, increases their vulnerability to dropping out of school and reduces physical fitness and work productivity”.
“Investing in adolescent nutrition now would also lead to their staying in school longer and performing better and ultimately creating a more productive labour force which is a crucial precondition for economic development,” she said.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said the GIFT programme and the implementation of Free Senior High School Education Policy were both complementary and aimed to maximise the investments in education and ultimately build a healthy, productive and high performing generation.
She commended the Ministry of Health, the GHS and the GES for making the programme a reality to promote the survival and development of adolescent girls and women in the country.
Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, the Director-General of the GHS, said malnutrition and anaemia, among others, remained a major concern of the GHS because of their dire consequences on children, adolescent girls and pregnant women.
He said the programme, which was a weekly provision of iron and folic acid supplements, would help to improve the haemoglobin concentration and iron status of adolescent girls to reduce the risk of anaemia.