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04.08.2005 Health

More Ghanaian children under five to die of malnutrition if......


Accra, Aug. 4, GNA - One out of every nine Ghanaian children is likely to die of malnutrition before the age of five if improved complementary feeding practices from birth were not adopted, Dr Gladys Ashitey, Deputy Minister of Health, said on Thursday.

She said there was very little improvement in the malnutrition situation in the country as the demographic health survey report of 2003 had revealed that 30 per cent of children under five years were stunt, 22 per cent were underweight with six per cent of the children of six to 59 months having severe anaemia.

Speaking at the launch of the World Breastfeeding Week in Accra under the theme: "Breastfeeding and Family Foods - Loving and Healthy", the Deputy Minister said it was, therefore, important to address the feeding of infant and young children in a more a comprehensive manner to reduce such deaths.

She said, "without a significant reduction in stunting levels, very little progress will be made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of a two-thirds reduction in under five mortality by the year 2015".

Dr Ashitey said fortunately, effort had succeeded in raising the exclusive breastfeeding rate from two per cent in 1988 for infants aged below four months to 53 per cent for infants aged six months by 2003. Currently 158 health facilities had been designated as baby friendly and there were several others where breastfeeding promotion had become a routine feature of service delivery.

Dr Ashitey said challenges such as poverty and inadequate household food security, poor hygiene associated with food preparation, late introduction of locally available and appropriate complementary food after six months and lack of variety on complementary foods given as the withholding of fruit from young children should be seriously addressed.

She called for the involvement of all sectors including the community to ensure that children survived and attained their full potential development through optimal feeding.

Mrs Goski Alabi, Executive Member of Ghana Infant Nutrition Action Network (GINAN), stressed the need for mothers to practise exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and give balanced food during their weaning periods.

She urged authorities, agencies and stakeholders to urgently operationalise the new World Health Assembly resolution on Infant and Young Child Nutrition adopted in May 2005 to give full effect to the theme of the week.

The resolution focuses on the safety of infant formula, particularly on the intrinsic contamination of infant formula. It also urges member countries to ensure that such products carry a warning on the labels indicating that they were not sterilised and might be contaminated with pathogens or diseases causing microorganisms. Representatives from UNICEF; World Health Organisation and Ghana National Commission on Children reiterated the need to see the problem as a developmental and alarming one and the need to place emphasis on family foods when introducing complementary feeding to infants after six months.

According to them, the family foods should be high in nutrients, right consistency and properly fed as a preferred choice to commercial bottled foods.

They all expressed their commitments to support child survival activities and ensuring the attainment of the MDG goals.