I grew up watching my aunties crave for a whitish baked item anytime any of them got pregnant but I did not know exactly what it was.
As I grew older, I realised it was a substance called ayilc. Eating it in pregnancy is not seen as an anomaly.
This is because tradition has been extensively used to promote the use of this white clay in this manner.
But recently, the rate at which young girls also crave for ayilc is of interest.
Some women say it helps the tame diarrhoea, discomfort, nausea and other related pregnancy conditions but I wonder for which of these reasons girls eat this clay .
Ayilc, which is mined in the depths of the earth, contains chemical elements such as aluminium, arsenic, bouriun and nickel which have proved to be harmful to human health.
It is mostly mined in parts of the Volta Region, especially Anfoega, where the freshly mined clayey soil is moulded into lumps, oven-baked and distributed to markets across Ghana.
Effects on young girls
The Head of Department of the Obstetrics and Gynaecology Department at the Ridge Hospital, Dr Eric Sarpong-Ntiamoah, disclosed that the persistent attitude of eating non-nutritional substances such as ayilc was not limited to pregnant women since girls tended to also have a craving for it.
Dr Sarpong -Ntiamoah explained that pregnant women could become anaemic if they ate so much of the clay instead of nutritious food, saying the same could happen to girls who craved for it.
Explaining further, he said when they filled their stomach with clay, they became deficient in iron and other nutrients they really needed from nutritious food.
He stated that because ayilc was mined from the depths of the earth, it sometimes contained eggs of worms and when eaten, these eggs hatch in the body. The worms then feed on the red blood cells.
A trader, Aunty Ayele, is pregnant and is a regular visitor to the blue kiosk just around her house to purchase ayilc.
She is surprised that she has become addicted to the clay product.
Dr Sarpong-Ntiamoah, therefore, advised girls to use their time productively to control their craving for ayilc.
He stated that the sensitisation programmes on the effects of the consumption of white clay had to be taken more seriously.
Some medical personnel , he said, had noticed that some women who had been eating the clay during pregancy ended up with some complications, including having stillborn babies. He, however, stated that no research work had confirmed this observation.
Dr Sarpong-Ntiamoah charged husbands to monitor their pregnant wives to ensure they did not get into contact with ayilc even when they craved badly for it.
He advised that the eating of fruits could subdue this abnormal craving and even help in the development of the unborn child.
There is no known treatment for this eating disorder. However, one could consult a doctor to initiate thorough physical and psychological examinations.