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18.03.2005 General News

Malnutrition still high - Akosa

By GNA

Accra, March 18, GNA - Malnutrition is still "unacceptably" high in the country with under-nutrition causing 50 per cent of deaths in children, Professor Agyeman Badu Akosa, Director General of the Ghana Health Service, said on Friday, quoting data from the Ghana Demographic Health Survey (GDHS).

At a press briefing on the launch of a concept paper "Imagine Ghana Free of Malnutrition," Prof Akosa held that with good nutrition such child deaths could be prevented.

The concept will be launched on March 22.

Prof. Akosa said the proportion of children below five years of age, who were underweight, had been between 22 to 28 per cent in 1993 to 2003, while stunting growth increased from 26 to 30 per cent. "Stunting results from long-term inadequate food intake. This means that close to one out of every three children in this country is suffering from the effects of long-term or periodic inadequate food intake," he explained.

Prof Akosa said deficiencies of important minerals and vitamins were also prevalent and very common among women and children. He noted that anaemia, caused largely by iron deficiency, affected nearly 77 per cent of children under age five and it affects nearly 45 per cent of Ghanaian women in the childbearing age. Vitamin A deficiency, he said, affected 72 per cent of children under age five and caused one out of three of all child deaths between the ages of six and 59 months.

"It is estimated that the number of child deaths attributed to vitamin A deficiency will be 86,000 between 2001 and 2005. This means that Ghana has been experiencing 17,200 deaths annually." Professor Akosa mentioned Hohoe, Kwahu South, Adansi West, Nkwanta, Zabzugu, Tatale, East Mamprusi, Bongo, Jirapa and Bole as Iodine Deficiency endemic areas.

Iodine deficient individuals were mentally slower, difficult to motivate and less productive, he said, adding that with goitre prevalence of over 18 per cent, the country loses one per cent of Gross National Product annually.

He said a study conducted among the elderly in Accra showed a high prevalence of malnutrition of 48 per cent, primarily due to lack of money to buy food.

Another source of worry, he said, was the phenomenon of street children who could not feed themselves adequately and that their increasing numbers contributed to the soaring rate of malnutrition in children. Professor Akosa called on the government, NGOs and development partners to coordinate all interventions to enable the country to adequately address her nutritional challenges.

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