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02.06.2005 General News

Workshop to enhance protein intake of children opens

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Accra, June2, GNA - The 2003 Demographic and Health Survey indicated that 30 per cent of Ghanaian children under five years of age are stunted, meaning that approximately one out of every three children is shorter than expected.

This was an increase of the four percentage points from the 1998 survey, Ms Patience Opoku, Senior Officer of the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs, said on Tuesday.

Ms Opoku was delivering a speech on behalf of the Minister, Hajia Alima Mahama at a workshop to launch the "Enhancing Child Nutrition Through Animal Source and Food Management (ENAM)" Project. She told the about 30 participants drawn from the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ghana Health Service, Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) as well as some international donor organisations that the malnutrition was indicative of chronic food insecurity that led to poor cognitive development and affected their performance at school. The ENAM Project is to improve the animal protein intake of children and to give caregivers access to animal source of food for child feeding through income generating activities.

It is also to improve the feeding knowledge and skills of vulnerable caregiver households and to enhance the local and African regional human resource capacity to address the increasing need for animal protein in children's diets.

Ms Opoku said at the mention of malnutrition, the image that came into people's mind was that of a skinny child with a big stomach and reddish hair that was known as Kwashiorkor.

She said this was a severe form of malnutrition affecting relatively few children but the bulk of childhood malnutrition in the country and the world was mild to moderate malnutrition that did not have the glaring symptoms manifested in Kwashiorkor. This mild form, referred to as 'hidden hunger' was the root cause of more than one half of child deaths while severe malnutrition like Kwashiorkor accounts for only five per cent of deaths among children of less than five years of age.

Ms Opoku said the problem of malnutrition deserved efforts and investments by all to curb it and called on stakeholders to be committed and get seriously involved, as that would enhance the welfare of children and the nation at large.

Professor Docea Fianu of the College of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences said there was widespread dietary deficiency in amino acids that could easily be sourced from animal products. She noted, however, that since most households could not afford the animal products they only depended on plant sources, which contributed little to the protein needed by the child.