THE HIGH level of anaemia, among women, contributes 20% of maternal deaths in Ghana, the Programme Manager of Food Fornication Project, Mr. Emmanuel Quaye, has disclosed.
According to the manager, the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey, revealed a high prevalence of anaemia among women and children; 65% pregnant women, 76% pre-schoolers and 41% of women of child-bearing age.
Mr. Quaye made the disclosure, at the launch of the Gain Fortification Project, and the National Food Fortification Programme (NFFP) in Bolgatanga, and called for concerted efforts in curbing the disease.
He said among the several causes of micro-nutrient deficiency generally, was inadequate consumption of foods rich in these micro-nutrients, because of poverty or lack of access to varieties of foods.
To address these, a comprehensive package of interventions was developed. The interventions were, micro-nutrient supplementation with iron-folate/vitamin A, as a short term measure, being implemented, since the past decade and more.
Food based approaches as long term approaches, food fortification as a long term measure, and education and agricultural production.
Mr. Quaye explained food fortification, as a process of adding micro-nutrients to foods, to ensure that the needed micro-nutrients were available in foods that were consumed by large segments of the population.
The manager said food fortification employs multiple micro-nutrients, and different food vehicles. It reaches a broader group, and has therefore proven to be a more cost-effective approach in addressing micro-nutrient malnutrition.
The Gain Fortification Project is being executed by the Food and Drugs Board, as the lead agency, and will last for three years, and provide the means to start a comprehensive National Food Fortification Strategy, to fortify selected foods.
Mr. Quaye said salt and some vegetable oils were being fortified, to help alleviate the problem of micro-nutrient deficiency diseases, which are highly prevalent in the country. The selected foods to be fortified were wheat flour and vegetable oil and the vitamins and minerals being used.
In her official launching speech, the Upper East Deputy Regional Minister, Mrs. Agnes Chigabatia, expressed grave concern about the enormous impact of marginal deficiencies of Vitamin A on infant mortality and morbidity, and of iron on brain and cognitive development in children, and the working bracket.
Mrs. Chigabatia said malnutrition was a major impediment to socio-economic development, and contributed to a vicious cycle of underdevelopment, to the detriment of the already underprivileged groups.
She said Ghana had an unacceptable high maternal mortality rate, of between 214-740 deaths in 100,000 births, and 20% of this figure was attributable to anaemia.
The Deputy Regional Minister was hopeful that by eliminating micronutrient malnutrition, one out of four infant deaths could be prevented, lives of many pregnant women could be saved, and work capacity could be improved by more than 20%.
Mrs. Chigabatia called for intensive communication for parents and caregivers, to make it a point to feed their families, especially children and women in the reproductive age group, with fortified foods to ensure optimum health.