Malnutrition, obesity among children require attention
Ghana is blessed with abundant fertile lands for the cultivation of various crops. It is, therefore, heart rending to see that there are children, pregnant women and some vulnerable groups of people who go to bed hungry.
Unfortunately, the reality is that there are quite a number of these vulnerable groups who find themselves in this situation.
Malnutrition is caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one eats, has become the bane of many children in the country. Untreated malnutrition can cause physical or mental disability.
The irony of it all is that, while some children are dying from malnutrition, others are also dying from obesity.
Obesity is about excess body fat that increases the risk of health problems. It often results from taking in more calories than are burned by exercise and normal daily activities. The mainstay of treatment is lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise.
Globally in 2020, 149 million children, under five, were estimated to be stunted, that is too short for their age, 45 million were estimated to be wasted, meaning too thin for their height, and 38.9 million were overweight or obese. On the other hand, 1.9 billion adults are overweight or obese, while 462 million are underweight.
Around 45 per cent of deaths among children under five years of age are linked to undernutrition. These mostly occur in low- and middle-income countries. At the same time, in these same countries, rates of childhood overweight and obesity are rising.
Poverty is said to amplify the risk of malnutrition, and risks from same. People who are poor are more likely to be affected by different forms of malnutrition. Also, malnutrition increases healthcare costs, reduces productivity, and slows economic growth, which can perpetuate a cycle of poverty and ill-health.
“Despite all the technological, cultural and social advances of the last few decades, we have lost sight of this most basic fact: If children eat poorly, they live poorly,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
“Millions of children subsist on an unhealthy diet because they simply do not have a better choice. The way we understand and respond to malnutrition needs to change: It is not just about getting children enough to eat; it is above all about getting them the right food to eat. That is our common challenge today,” she explained.
To bring the issue home, in 2021, the Maiden Ghana Obesity Survey by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS) showed that majority of Ghanaians are overweight or obese.
The survey, which was the first ever most comprehensive survey on obesity and other lifestyle behaviours in the country, found that 85 per cent of Ghanaians did not eat healthily, while more than 50 per cent were either obese or overweight.
Last week, the Daily Graphic reported that there was an increasing incidence of malnutrition, poor child growth, micronutrient deficiencies, adult overweight and obesity in the country.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, who made this known, said wide disparities persisted in malnutrition rates across the regions, locations and wealth quintiles and, therefore, stressed the need for comprehensive interventions to address those complex and varied challenges.
The Daily Graphic is concerned that a country, which has vast lands for farming, will have its children go hungry.
We believe that a lot more needs to be done to make people, especially mothers, to be self-sufficient in the area of providing balanced diets to their children.
We have to encourage people to go into backyard gardens where they can plant vegetables and fruits for their daily needs.
The WHO currently recommends the consumption of at least, 400 grammes of fruits and vegetables each day or five servings of 80 grammes each, and this can be achieved, if people go into backyard gardens to help reduce cost.
We further call on the government to work harder to achieve its health and nutrition objectives, including building a more resilient, productive and inclusive society.