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29.08.2005 Health

76% of pre-school children are anaemic-GSCP


Busua (W/R) Aug.29, GNA - Seventy-six per cent of pre-school children in the Western and Greater Accra Regions are anaemic.

In addition, 72 per cent of children from the two regions under five years suffer from Vitamin A Deficiency (VAD), according to a survey by the Ghana Sustainable Change Project (GSCP).

As a result, about 168,000 children could die due to the lack of VAD between 2005 and 2014. Ms. Mercy Nyamikeh, a staff of the GSCP, announced this at a day's workshop to commemorate world breastfeeding week at Busua in the Western Region on Monday.

The workshop was aimed at sensitising stakeholders on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for six months, raise awareness about the costs of introducing other foods and drinks to babies before six months and share information on the barriers to optimal breastfeeding practices. It was on the theme "Continued Breastfeeding and giving other foods after six months of age".

Ms. Nyamikeh said Anaemia in children could affect the cognitive development of the child and their learning abilities. She said about 64 per cent of pregnant women and 41 per cent of non-pregnant women also suffer from anaemia.

Ms. Nyamikeh said the female labour force in the two regions could be affected while goitre, stunted growth among children, iron deficiency anaemia and low birth weight could also prevail. Mr. Winfred Wunu, Western Regional Nutrition Officer said conscious efforts must be made to reduce malnutrition among infants, children and women of reproductive age.

He said this could be achieved through the promotion of optimal breast feeding, appropriate infant and young children feeding practices and the strengthening of iron-foliate supplementary programme for pregnant women.

Mr. Wunu stressed the need to address the iron deficient status of infants and children of school going age while the Vitamin A supplementation programme for lactating women and children must be intensified.

He said the focus and use of Iodated salts should continue to minimise the exposure of children to VAD.

Mr. Joseph B. Aidoo, Western Regional Minister said though nutritionist and other health personnel had insisted on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, several traditional practices had not allowed parents to adapt to the reliable and safe breast milk.

"It would be ideal if nursing mothers who practice exclusive breastfeeding were showcased to assist in the educational campaign" he added.

Mr. Aidoo said while malnourished children were likely to grow up to become malnourished adults, efforts must be made to rectify their situation to enable the country benefit from their human resources, for the nation's development.

"Breast milk has been tried and tested to be the best for the infant and should be promoted at all cost for the rapid and safe growth of children," he noted Dr Sylvester Anemana, Western Regional Director of Health Services said improper breast-feeding of children was a major problem facing the country.

He said many nursing mothers refused to give colostrums, which is rich in antibodies and other nutritional substances to their children because they thought it was dirty.

"Most of them do not hold the child properly during breastfeeding, some do not feed the child when they are sick while others also practice complimentary feeding at the wrong time," He added.

Dr. Anemana said exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months had gone up from 31 per cent in 1998 to 53 per cent in 2003. He therefore, appealed to couples to make exclusive breastfeeding their priority and avoid using feeding bottles, artificial pacifiers and tinned foods.

Mrs Olivia Opoku-Adomah, Western Regional Economic Planning Officer who chaired the workshop said local cereals and staple foods could be properly prepared and used as complementary foods for infants and children.