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25.08.2005 Health

Malnutrition becomes major killer of children

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Wa, Aug 25, GNA - Malnutrition contributes to 55 per cent of all deaths of children in the Upper West Region while 32 per cent of all children in the region are under weight.

Prof Saa Dittoh, the Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Development Studies (UDS) who gave these statistics, said if no serious efforts were made to address the problems of malnutrition in the region, 13,000 children in the area would die by five years time. He was speaking on "Nutrition Security" in the region at the beginning of a three-day National Training Course on Capacity Building and Advocacy on Food and Nutrition Security at Wa on Wednesday. Prof Dittoh said the country's health care system was over emphasising on curative medicine with inadequate and little commitment to the solution of nutritional problems.

"We may not need to train many doctors if we tackle our nutrition and sanitation issues with seriousness."

The course, the first of its kind, has been designed to enable politicians and other policy makers to appreciate the central role of nutrition in development as it has often been ignored during the planning of development programmes.

The Food and Nutrition Unit of the UDS, in conjunction with the FARMER Project of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), organised the course for district chief executives, district co-ordinating directors and other principal officers of the district assemblies in the region.

Prof Dittoh said 65 per cent of people in the region never take enough Vitamin "A" and this has resulted in 11 per cent hospital attendance and 35 per cent child deaths.

Iodine deficiency is equally alarming with 56 per cent of people, majority of whom were women.

''In five years, we may have 2,100 cretins, 7,200 severely mentally retarded and 62,000 mild to moderate intellectual disability,'' he said. Mr Ambrose Dery, the Upper West Regional Minister who opened the course, said if people were not developed physically and mentally due to malnutrition, projects would be of less benefit to them. "Infrastructure is definitely important but that alone does not constitute development.''

''Time will come when the level of development in our various areas will also be measured by how well the people are adequately nourished and secure and not how many schools and lengths of roads have been built."

He urged all district assemblies in the region to give the school-feeding programme, which is about to be introduced in the coming year, a top priority.