The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has challenged policy makers to work at safeguarding food and nutrition security in the country as the world struggles to control the spread of COVID-19, as well as increase access to life saving vaccines.
“We must also improve feeding and increase community actions that promote and protect the lives of women, adolescents and children,” she said.
The First Lady was speaking at a nutrition advocate event in Accra aimed at rallying influential queen mothers and adolescent girl leaders, as well as partners from health and education agencies.
The event was to help create an opportunity to expand discussions to include the general improvement of the health, growth and development of women and children in the country.
The First Lady, who is a Nutrition Ambassador, in a keynote address, said “I wish to re-state my resolve that no child should die from malnutrition, malaria or other preventable illness in Ghana. So, together with the Malaria Prevention Foundation, our partners and stakeholders, I stand committed to the task that is ahead of us.”
Three and a half years ago, exactly on October 11, 2017, the Girls’ Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation programme was launched in Sunyani and according to the First Lady, “that was the beginning of an innovative initiative to provide iron and folic acid supplements to our daughters, to reduce the prevailing high anaemia rates and set them on a path to improved health and development”.
She said, “as we are all aware, the last year and half have been far from normal. We now face significant threats to our health, economic and developmental gains,” adding that public health experts had expressed concern that if care was not taken, there was the risk that the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a nutrition crisis.
“We risk disruptions to our food systems. We also risk income loss which could prevent children and women from accessing nutritious diets and essential nutrition services. Ultimately, we risk derailment to efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” she added.
She said, “a lot of work has been done by different stakeholders. Subsequently, we have seen a decline in the prevalence of malnutrition and its resultant ill-health and death among children”.
However, she added that current levels of stunting, anaemia in women of reproductive years, including adolescent girls and increasing trends in obesity was worrying and ,therefore, gratifying that under the health sector led Start Right Feed Right Campaign, initiated last year, “we are taking steps to improve the quality of children’s diet to keep us on the path to meeting Global Nutrition Targets”.
The UNICEF Representative in Ghana, Ms Anne-Claire Dufay, in her remarks, called for an enforced legislation to ban the aggressive marketing of products that undermined breastfeeding, saying “we need to strengthen the consequences for violators”.
She also called for the expansion of paid family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies for all workers in the formal and informal sectors.
The Minister of Health, Mr Kwaku Agyeman-Manu, said maternal and child health and nutrition had become key right issues and that the government was committed to promoting health and equitable health force, tightening the health issuance programme, as well as supporting initiative towards child survival and health at the community level.
The World Health Organisation Representative, Dr Francis Kasolo, said good nutrition was a major factor in countries attaining SDGs, however, he added that globally in 2020, 149 million children under five years were estimated to be stunted, 45 million wasted and 39 million were overweight.
The Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr Patrick Kumah-Aboagye, said the service’s resolve to improve the nutrition status and survival of women and children was guided by the knowledge that investing in women and children's feeding presented both short and long-term gains.