Moves underway to link nutrition to social protection
A meeting to explore opportunities to link social protection to nutrition in addressing the challenge of malnutrition has been held in Accra.
Organised by the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, the meeting seeks to develop innovative social protection interventions aimed at ending the challenge of malnutrition.
Recommendations from the meeting are expected to be integrated into the medium-term development plan for the ministry and other related departments and agencies as a means to improve the nutritional status of Ghanaians.
Addressing the meeting, the Minister for Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ms Otiko Afisah Djaba, said Ghana had made strides in the fight against malnutrition, especially among children under-five and women in their reproductive period, that is,15 to 49 years.
According to the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey (GDHS), there has been a reduction in the number of children suffering from stunted growth, from 28 per cent in 2008 to approximately 19 per cent in 2011 and from 14 per cent to 11 per cent for underweight children within the same period.
The GDHS, however, indicates that micronutrient deficiencies are still relatively high, with particular regard to anaemia among children and women. It said 65.7 per cent of children and 42.2 per cent of women between the ages of 15 and 49 were anaemic.
Ms Djaba noted that it was an established fact that specific interventions accounted for about 30 per cent of the solution to malnutrition, while nutrition-sensitive interventions in the areas of agriculture, education, water and sanitation, among others, accounted for 70 per cent of the results.
She noted that the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP) 1000 programme that targeted support for 6,200 pregnant women and lactating mothers with cash transfers to enable them to improve their nutrition and thereby reduce stunting among children, was one of the specific nutrition-sensitive social protection interventions initiated by the ministry.
In addition, she said, the menu under the School Feeding Programme had also been improved to ensure that pupils got adequate nutritional requirements.
The minister said existing policies needed to be made more nutrition-centred by promoting other complementary services in addition to other pro-poor interventions.
In his address, a Commissioner of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Professor Agyemang Badu Akosa, said nutrition was a significant challenge in this country.
“Malnutrition cost the nation $2.6 billion in 2012, representing 6.4 per cent of the country’s GDP,” he said.
Prof. Akosa said malnutrition also hindered the cognitive development of the child, impaired learning abilities resulting in low school attainment which in turn affected a child’s prospects of gainful employment as an adult.