About 42 per cent of women in the country are anaemic, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Emmanuel Kofi Dzotsi, has disclosed.
He said at least 45 per cent of the figure were pregnant women, with another 48 per cent of them being adolescent girls.
“Anaemia remains a major public health concern in Ghana, and common among children, adolescent girls and women of childbearing age,” Dr Dzotsi told the media during a briefing on the Girls’ Iron and Folic Acid Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) programme in the Upper East Region last Friday.
He said at least 43 per cent of pregnant women in the region who reported for antenatal care last year were anaemic.
The encounter was to update the media on the progress of the programme and to court support towards the implementation phase while demystifying myths about the programme.
He said periodic blood loss through menstruation required additional iron and other essential nutrients for women and adolescent girls.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with support from other developmental partners and the Ghana Education Service (GES), started the programme in all districts and municipalities.
The programme provides iron and folic acid (IFA) tablets once weekly to adolescent girls in junior and senior high schools, technical and vocational institutes, and those out of school.
The GIFTS programme was adopted by the Ghana Health Service as one of several ongoing actions to reduce the high rates of anaemia in adolescent girls and women.
It targets adolescent girls from 10-19 years and women from 20 years.
In school, adolescent girls take the tablet every Wednesday throughout the term under the supervision of a teacher, and those out of school are registered at the nearest health facility and given a monthly dosage.
Dr Dzotsi stated that anaemic girls or women had lower pre-pregnancy iron stores and the pregnancy period was often too short to build iron stores for the growing foetus and mother, stressing that “adolescence is an opportune period for interventions to address anaemia, a critical time for laying a strong nutrition foundation for childbearing”.
“Providing IFA supplements during adolescence and continuing into adulthood improves iron status and reduces the risk of developing iron deficiency and anaemia,” he indicated.
He stressed that “in a setting like ours, where anaemia prevalence is above 40 per cent, the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines recommend mass IFA supplementation for menstruating women to boost their iron level”.
Dr Dzotsi said it was not true that the tablets could cause barrenness, stressing instead that it “makes the adolescent girl or woman healthy before getting pregnant”.
“What we are doing is to replace the iron lost by girls and women during menstruation so that when the time is due for them to get pregnant, the iron level will be very high to take care of the mother and the baby,” he stated.
He advised women and adolescent girls to consume iron-rich foods such as liver, fish, poultry, eggs, meat, beans, fruits among others.