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GHS administers multivitamin supplement to adolescent girls

BY: Daily Graphic
GHS administers multivitamin supplement to adolescent girls
GHS administers multivitamin supplement to adolescent girls

The Upper East Regional Health Directorate has successfully administered multivitamin supplements to 65,208 adolescent girls to boost their immune system against iron deficiency.

The Girls’ Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) is a programme run by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in the Upper East Region to ensure that school and out-of-school adolescent girls in the region, who are menstruating, are protected against anaemia.

The GIFTS programme was piloted in four regions of the country, including the Upper East Region, by the GHS with support from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO), the Canadian Government, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) and the Ghana Education Service (GES).

Anaemia

The intervention, which started in October 2016, is expected to end in 2019. It is aimed at reducing and preventing anaemia by 20 per cent in women of childbearing age and adolescents through weekly iron and folic acid supplementation.

At a stakeholder review meeting held in Bolgatanga, the Upper East Regional Director of Health Services, Dr Winfred Ofosu, said the ongoing programme involved a weekly distribution of Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplements to all adolescents aged 10 to 19 every Wednesday, known as “GIFTS Wednesday” across all public junior and senior high schools in the region.

He said the directorate had targeted 97,608 adolescent girls by the end of the programme, but had so far reached out to 65,208, and indicated that the intervention was meant to build the iron and folate stock of the girl child, which would prevent postpartum haemorrhage when they grow into adulthood and are ready for childbirth.


Blood formation

Dr Ofosu indicated that, “Iron and folic acid are very important elements in the formation of blood, but these alone are not sufficient. We need to educate them on the need to eat nutritious food because you need protein to help in forming the blood.”

According to him, anaemia reduces the concentration levels in children in the classroom, and makes them inactive. He added that the programme would serve a dual purpose of boosting blood levels and improving the concentration levels in the children.

He expressed optimism that the intervention would help prevent maternal deaths and improve maternal health because, “we know that anaemia affects even the developing child.”

Dr Ofosu recalled some misconceptions by parents that the supplements were family planning contraceptives and urged nurses on the field to continue sensitising community members to the purpose and importance of the GIFTS.

A health and nutrition specialist with the UNICEF office in the Northern Region, Dr Priscilla Wobil, said one key intervention of UNICEF was to prevent anaemia in adolescent girls and pregnant women as much as possible, and noted that the focus was on girls, because they stood a higher risk of being anaemic due to menstruation.

Academic performance

She reiterated that anaemia affected the academic performance of adolescent girls, adding that “if they grow and are still anaemic, they could have several complications when they are pregnant’’.

“Some of the problems could be that, the baby may be born too small or too early because the mother may go into labour early and give birth to a preterm baby, and preterm babies have challenges surviving, she explained.”

Dr Wobil noted that bleeding during pregnancy or birth was one of the major complications that resulted in deaths.

“If the mother is already anaemic, it poses a higher risk of death to the mother, so GIFTS is looking at both the health status, the nutritional status and the educational status of the girl child,” she stated.