Improving nutrition at East Gonja: Need for collaboration between GHS, DoA

Tuesday 1st January, 2019
Improving nutrition

A GNA Feature by Albert Futukpor

Adamupe (N/R), Jan. 1, GNA - Efforts by stakeholders to improve nutrition for citizens at Adamupe, a farming community within the East Gonja Municipality of the Northern Region, appear to be yielding positive results.

Residents including key district assembly staff have testified that various community engagements have led to a reduction in the incidence of diseases as they adhere to lessons on nutrition.

Madam Ndetigmah Tamani, a resident of Adamupe, said their children often fell sick for various reasons and they spent a lot of money to treat them. She said since they started cultivating nutritious crops such as soybeans, and sweet potatoes and included them in their daily meals as they were taught at the durbar, the rate at which they and their children fell sick had significantly reduced. Indeed their nutritional status has improved and their children now look plumpy, she said.

Mr Mohammed Rufai, East Gonja Municipal Coordinating Director, pledged the Assembly’s commitment to prioritise issues of nutrition by ensuring that the GHS and Department of Agriculture coordinated their activities to ensure improved nutrition programme delivery for the people of the area.

He said “for the first time in its history, the Assembly has prioritized issues of nutrition in its Medium Term Development Programme for 2018-2021 by allocating an amount of GH¢ 350,000.00 towards addressing issues of nutrition in the area.”

Madam Getrude Yentumi, East Gonja Municipal Director of GHS, said the Assembly is promoting the consumption of micronutrient and protein rich foods, mass vitamin A supplementation campaign amongst other interventions to improve nutritional status of women and children in the area.

She said “the rates of malnutrition have been decreasing gradually indicating an improvement due to the numerous interventions that have been carried out to address the problem of malnutrition in the area”.

Majority of the people in the East Gonja Municipality engage mainly in subsistence agriculture and sell the surplus to others. They keep animals and cultivate various food crops. One would have thought that as subsistent farmers, the issue of malnutrition would not be a concern for them. However, the Municipality is amongst those with high cases of malnutrition in the region. A baseline study conducted at the Municipality in 2017 by Shea Network Ghana (SNG), a non-governmental organization (NGO), shows that 12 per cent of children representing 3,769 were malnourished.

This confirmed an earlier study conducted by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) at the Municipality, which revealed that about 20.3 per cent representing 4,750 children were stunted; 17.3 per cent representing 4,067 children were underweight and 20 per cent representing 4,703 children were wasted.

The study also revealed that 14.7 per cent representing about 5,166 women in the Municipality were underweight and consumed three to four types of food out of 10 benchmarked by the Ghana Health Service (GHS).

It said inadequate intake of protein and other nutrients left children malnourished making them to experience developmental delays, weight loss and illness. It also revealed that even though the national nutrition policy was partly implemented in the Municipality and catered for in the GHS’ work plans, there was no Committee on Nutrition at the Municipality to implement the policy.

The study also said nutrition did not appear as a priority for the Assembly and as such no budget was allocated to the sector apart from GHS undertaking a number of activities including iron and folic acid supplementation. There was also no partnership between GHS and the Department of Agriculture at the Municipality to promote nutrition sensitive crops.

Steps taken by Assembly and development partners to address the situation

Malnutrition contributes to maternal and child mortality as well as retards mental development of children leading to poor academic performance. It is in the light of this that a number of development partners have rolled out targeted interventions in the Municipality to improve the nutritional status of women and children in the area.

It is worth noting that organizations such as the Netherlands Development Organization – Ghana (SNV) in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with funding from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) programme, are working towards strengthening the capacity of NGOs to advocate for increased budgetary allocations and expenditure; increased private sector investment; improved coordination and effective implementation of the nutrition programmes in the Municipality.

SNG, which is the local implementing partner of SNV on the V4CP, in July last year, used the evidence of the baseline survey in 2017 and the USAID’s study on nutrition in the area to make a case for the policy-makers at the Assembly to prioritize nutrition to safeguard the lives of especially children and women in the area.

SNG, in 2017, also held a community durbar at Adamupe, a community near Salaga, to educate residents on how to cultivate nutritious crops such as soybeans, beans and sweet potatoes and to include them in their daily meals to improve their nutritional status. Ms Grace Ayijinu, Programme Officer of SNG said “residents of Adamupe have also been taught how to prepare nutritious meals, and to demand nutritious supplements from the GHS for their children to improve their health status.”

She expressed optimism that the Assembly’s commitment to allocate resources towards the improvement of nutrition within the district will go a long way to address the situation. She, however, called on the Assembly to do well to release the funds on time to the GHS to enable it to undertake its activities towards addressing the situation.