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Address the nutrition gap or face a generational challenge – Prof. Badu Akosa

Accra, July 4, GNA – Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, the Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), has called for strengthened stakeholder collaboration in addressing the country’s nutritional challenges.

He said the poor nutritional status of majority of Ghanaians, particularly those living in the Northern, Upper East and Upper West Regions and other rural communities, posed a great threat to the attainment of national development aspirations.

A recent Cost of Hunger Study on Ghana, he said had revealed that as many as 37 per cent of the citizens transited from childhood malnutrition into adulthood, underlying the low educational attainment of the country, which was a far cry from the human resources needed to attain these development aspirations.

He said the study showed that Ghana lost a total of GHC2.6 billion to malnutrition in 2012 alone, which was equivalent to 6.4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.

Prof Akosa, who was also Ghana’s Focal Point for the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, in an address at a Social Protection Nutrition dialogue in Accra on Tuesday, said the country was endowed with so much that it was shameful for her to fail on the most basic right of human existence, which was the right to food.

He thanked the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection (MoGCSP), for engaging the key state and non-state actors to build consensus on crucial social protection interventions in the quest to end malnutrition.

He explained that with the knowledge that a mono-sector approach to nutrition could only deal with just a third of the needed solutions to malnutrition, the NDPC, had since 2011, established a Cross-Sectoral Planning Group, to strengthen dialogue around nutrition policy formulation, planning and programming at all levels.

The Commission, he said, had also been pursuing sector-specific dialogues based on commissioned reports, which had proposed nutrition-sensitive pathways in education, Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) and Social Protection.

Prof Akosa said it was expected that the Gender Ministry would map out and integrate into its medium-term development plan a nutrition-social protection agenda, and ensure its implementation for better outcomes for vulnerable groups.

He also called for the development of critical and innovative strategies for sourcing for local funding of leverage existing programmes and make them more nutrition sensitive programmes for especially underserved populations.

Madam Otiko Afisah Djaba, the Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, admitted that although Ghana had made progress in the fight against malnutrition especially among under-five children, and in women in their reproductive periods, there was still a huge gap that needed to be urgently addressed.

She said a number of interventions had been made in the areas of introducing nutrition-sensitive policies in areas including agriculture, education, WASH, gender equality and women’s empowerment.

However, micronutrient deficiencies were still relatively high, particularly with anaemia amongst women and children, and that urgent steps were needed to prevent childhood obesity, which currently stood at three per cent from increasing.

She said the Ghana Health Service’s supplementary feeding programme to women during antenatal and post-natal periods, the Livelihood Empowerment against Poverty programme, and the national School Feeding Programme, were all efforts aimed to enhance the nutritional status of these vulnerable groups.

The Gender Minister said these interventions had led not only to enhanced nutritional statuses of these beneficiaries, but had also improved incomes of households, ensured food security and improved the general livelihoods of the extremely.

Madam Otiko advised the public to substitute the eating of unhealthy and fatty diets with nutritionally-balanced foods, accompanied with exercising for good health.

GNA

By Christabel Addo/ Doris Ablordey – GNA