Professor Matilda Steiner-Asiedu, President of the Ghana Nutrition Association, has described undernutrition as a major challenge affecting children’s wellbeing and development in Ghana.
She said only 13 per cent of children aged six to 23 months werere able to meet the minimum standards set by the three core Infant and Young Feeding namely- Dietary Diversity, Feeding Frequency, and Nutrient Density.
“Micronutrient deficiencies affect maternal, infant and young child health in Ghana. Consequences of this can lead to mental impairment, poor health, low productivity among others”.
Prof. Steiner-Asiedu disclosed this at a day’s workshop to foster stronger collaboration to address micronutrient deficiencies in Ghana, organized by Nestlé Ghana in collaboration with the Ghana Nutrition Society.
The workshop, on the theme, “Building Nutritionally Sound Partnerships through Food Fortification Agenda”, created a platform for stakeholders to dialogue on nutrition issues, raising awareness, and finding solutions to undernutrition in Ghana.
She explained that in Ghana, 24 per cent of all child mortality cases are associated with undernutrition. Annual cost associated with child undernutrition was estimated at 4.6 billion GHS, which is equivalent to 6.4 per cent of the GDP.
“This affects sustainable development as child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced Ghana’s workforce by 7.3 per cent according to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey, 2015,” she added.
It is estimated that more than two billion people worldwide suffer from some degree of micronutrient deficiencies, the most prevalent being iron, vitamin A, iodine and zinc.
Prof. Steiner-Asiedu noted that the prevalence of anaemia in children under five had greatly reduced from 78 per cent in 2008 to 57 per cent in 2014, according to the GDHS 2008; GDHS 2014 but the situation was still above the WHO cut-off point of 40 per cent for a severe public health problem.
Child mortality associated with undernutrition has reduced Ghana’s workforce by 7.3 per cent, whilst 37 per cent of the adult population in Ghana suffered from stunting as children.
The annual cost associated with child undernutrition was estimated at GHc 4.6 billion, which was equivalent to 6.4 per cent of the GDP.
She therefore called for the need to see eliminating stunting in Ghana as a necessary step for sustained development in the Country.
Mr. Andrew Lartey, a representative from the Ghana Standards Authority who spoke on “Observing Regulations and Standards: Means to Contributing to Healthier Lifestyles”, explained that the main purpose of Food Standards was to protect the health and safety of consumers and cited the multiple standards such as ISO, Codex and Ghana standards developed for same food products.
He called on policy makers to help manage food risks, adding that, “Policy Makers must build and maintain adequate food systems and infrastructure to manage food safety risks”.
Mr. Lartey urged manufacturers to adhere to standards and produce quality products to contribute to healthier lifestyle.
The Managing Director of Nestlé Ghana, Mrs. Freda Duplan shared the company’s purpose of enhancing quality of life and contributing to a healthier future and its commitment to help reduce the risk of undernutrition through micronutrient fortification.
Nestlé, she explained had taken an excellent step by fortifying their products such as Cerelac® and Maggi® with necessary micronutrients like iron and added that “Public-Private-Partnership was key to the sustainability of the programmes and development.
She therefore encouraged the public sector to collaborate with industries to help address micronutrient deficiencies.
Mrs. Duplan also called for stronger collaboration among stakeholders to ensure continuous contribution to nutrition in Ghana.
“Through multi stakeholder collaborations, we are all complimenting government’s effort through various programs that promote nutrition, health, and wellness”.
In Central West Africa in 2016, Nestlé has provided 175 million servings of fortified foods daily. These servings included products in Ghana such as Nido® fortified with Vitamin C and Iron, Cerelac® with Iron, and Maggi® with Iodine and Iron among others.
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