First Lady decries high levels of undernutrition among children

BY: Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo in a handshake with Dr Yaw Yeboah, Council Chair, GHS.  Those with them are from  (left): Mr Niyi Ojuolape, UNFPAS, Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, Minister of Health, and Dr Nsiah Asare, Director General, Ghana Health Service.
Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo in a handshake with Dr Yaw Yeboah, Council Chair, GHS. Those with them are from (left): Mr Niyi Ojuolape, UNFPAS, Mr Kwaku Agyemang Manu, Minister of Health, and Dr Nsiah Asare, Director General, Ghana Health Service.

The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has described as horrifying the situation where less than 15 per cent of infants between six and 23 months get the dietary variety and feeding frequency that are appropriate for them.

According to her, undernutrition and stunting were still unacceptably high in the country because few children received nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods with regard to their age.

The First Lady made the observation when she opened the maiden national Maternal, Child Health and Nutrition Conference (MCHNC) 2018 in Accra.

The theme of the three-day conference is: “Strengthening partnership for achieving Universal Health Coverage in Reproductive Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Nutrition.”

“On a personal level, my passion is driven by the belief that investing in the nutrition and health, especially of children and mothers, is one of the best investments we can make to enhance economic growth, eliminate extreme poverty and reduce inequality,” she stated.

Reducing burden

The First Lady called on participants to focus on the core agenda of the conference — that is reproductive, newborn child health and nutrition- which are major health concerns, saying: “Let us also be reminded that the effective management of proven interventions and programmes is a sure way to reduce the prevailing burden of maternal, newborn and child illnesses and deaths.”

According to her, as gains were being made in child survival, “we equally need to ensure that they thrive.

We need to seriously consider all issues relating to the important subject of early childhood development; a necessary consideration if every Ghanaian child must not only survive, but be provided everything needed to ensure their total physical, emotional and cognitive development.”

She said although the coverage of services to vulnerable groups such as antenatal care, access to skilled care during delivery and babies being put to the breast immediately after delivery had increased considerably, there was still a large number of children, young adolescents and women who continued to die or live with disabilities mostly from preventable causes, noting that there was a lot more work to be done.

Building partnerships

Mrs Akufo-Addo also called for increased partnership and coalition among stakeholders, stating that: “One of the most valuable lessons I have learned working with two foundations, the Rebecca Foundation and the Infanta Malaria Prevention Foundation, is that we can only be effective when we build partnerships and coalitions.”

She called on participants to focus on innovative ways to form partnerships with the private sector in a win-win way to improve the infrastructure and logistics needed to improve access for all.

The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman Manu, in an address, said although progress made in the health sector was not at the desired pace, “I believe that with the commitment also shown by the international community and opportunities created by various health fora such as this and through our collective resolve, Ghana will achieve the targets of Sustainable Development Goals well before the 2030 targeted time”.

In a welcome address, the Director General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Anthony Nsiah-Asare, said reducing maternal and child mortality remained a top priority for the service as the prevailing 319 per 100,000 deaths alongside stagnating newborn mortality rates in the last decade was simply unacceptable.

“The quest to reduce maternal and child mortality remains a top priority for the service and I believe that at this time of our development, we need transformational approach to healthcare delivery,” he added.

According to him, increased emphasis on accountability in health care was the way to go as the healthcare industry continued to move towards a more value-added system that delivered better quality care at a more affordable cost.

The Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Mr Niyi Ojuolape, in an address, commended Ghana for the positive strides it had made in the areas of maternal and child health care.