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02.08.2004 General News

Malnutrition causes death among children under-five years

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Accra, Aug 2, GNA - About 60 per cent of all deaths among children under five years is caused by malnutrition, which has also been identified as one of the factors for poverty, Dr Henrietta Odoi-Agyarko, Acting Public Health Director of the Ghana Health Service, said on Monday. She said though in some households "there is enough food and other resources to enable adequate feeding and care for children, malnutrition is rampant because there is lack of knowledge and appropriate skills leading to wrong decision-making, misplaced priorities and low importance placed on child feeding and care."

Dr Odoi-Agyarko said this at the opening of a two-day Second National Review Meeting on Community Based Nutrition and Food Security Project (CBNFSP) in Accra. She said malnutrition also caused stunted growth among children and if not treated before the age of two years, it might affect the child's mental and physical capacity.

The three-year Project was delayed for a year due to lack of funds. It is scheduled to end by the end of this year. The Project forms part of the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRS) and the main objective is to test strategies, models, implementation structures and processes aimed at empowering communities to identify the causes of malnutrition and address them in order to reduce the problem.

It is also aimed at empowering households to feed their children especially those under-five years properly. Dr Odoi-Agyarko said though GHS had made significant strides in improving health care delivery, there were more efforts required to attain the Millennium Development Goals of reducing under-five mortality, which currently stood at 111 per 1,000 live births and urged health workers to intensify their programmes to achieve the goal.

Mr Jacob Armah, Acting Head of the Nutrition Unit of GHS, said the Project was piloted in Komenda-Edna-Eguafo Abiem District in the Central, Sefwi-Wiawso in the Western Region, Kadjebi in the Volta and Bongo in the Upper East Regions. He said more than 500-community growth promoters had been trained to assist health personnel to counsel on appropriate child feeding. They also educate mothers on the need to ensure that their children are immunised; given vitamin A supplementation and practice family planning, use insecticide treated nets, consume iodated salt and wash their hands with soap.

Mr Armah noted that reports from the four-piloted districts indicated that people have realised the benefits and mothers no longer walked miles to attend child welfare clinics. He said the project after its completion would seek for funds to continue so as to reach all districts. Mrs Rosina Agble, Technical Advisor to the Project, said food was very essential in poverty alleviation. She said to achieve nutrition security, good health, good caring practices and food security - preservation, marketing and other factors must be given serious attention. "When we are able to do all these then we will kick out poverty and solve malnutrition and stunting", she said.

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