The Head of the Nutrition Unit of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) Mr Jacob Armah, has expressed concern that the continued occurrence of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDDs) among children may hamper the objectives of the educational reform programme and the nation's developmental efforts.
He said statistics, indicated that about 81,200 babies are born annually with mental impairments as a result of such deficiencies, and suffer from stunted growth and low Intelligence Quotients (IQs), thereby impeding their learning abilities when they grow up.
Mr Armah, expressed these concerns, at a stakeholders' seminar to “devise strategies for achieving universal salt iodation in Ghana” at Elmina.
The seminar, which is being attended by some members of parliament and district chief executives, is under the theme: “Together in the fight against iodine deficiency disorders (IDDs) in Ghana and West Africa” and is being organized by the Ministry of Trade, Industry, PSD and PSI, in collaboration with UNICEF.
Mr Armah, who was speaking on “Iodine deficiency disorders in Ghana: health and economic implications”, noted that studies conducted between 1991 and 1994, indicated that 33% of the then 110 districts in the country, were very critical IDDs endemic areas, and that as a result, three percent of babies born there will become cretins, 10%, will have severe mental impairment and 87 percent, mild mental impairment.
He mentioned, Nkwanta, Kwahu-south, Tatale, Mamprusi, Hohoe, Bongo, Jirapa, Adansi-west and Bole, as some of the critical endemic areas, and expressed surprise that the Tema municipality and Mfantsiman districts which are near the sea, whose foods are rich in iodine, were also gradually becoming affected.
He expressed regret that this situation led, not only to poor academic performance, but under-utilization of educational opportunities and school drop-out, while many of such children also became handicapped and were unable to cope on their own.
Touching on the economic implications of IDDs, Mr Armah said this leads to loss of productivity, as people in IDDs endemic communities were incapacitated in taking initiatives and decision-making, thereby blocking human and social development.
He observed that it was estimated that 22 million dollars would be lost annually in productivity, in terms of future wages, thereby hindering the nation's bid to attain middle-income status.