Need to develop strategies to reduce infant and maternal mortality

There is the need to develop broad-based strategies in the agriculture, agro-based industry and other sectors and to support non-governmental organisations, to reduce infant and maternal deaths, and to increase chances of survival of infants and mothers.

Policies, programmes and strategies should be implemented comprehensively and in an integrated and coordinated manner to control Vitamin A deficiency.

The call was made by Mrs Afua Appiah Kyeremeh, a Nutritionist at Greater Accra Regional Health Directorate of Ghana Health Service (GHS).

She was addressing nursing mothers at GHS Monthly Health Promotion programme on the theme: “Immunisation-Vitamin A”, in Accra on Tuesday.

Mrs Kyeremeh called for year round availability of Vitamin A foods including mangoes, pawpaw, dark green leafy vegetables, red palm oil, as the fortification of appropriate food with Vitamin A.

She said GHS and Ministry of Health had responded to the problem in the short to medium term by embarking on Vitamin A supplementation, a highly cost effective way of saving lives.

Mrs Kyeremeh said the Ministry had provided capsules to children between six months to 59 months old nationwide through “mass distribution campaigns” at least twice a year.

She explained that this was in line with World Health Organisation  recommendation that in any member country where prevalence exceeded 20 per cent as pertaining in Ghana (37-65 per cent) all children aged six months to five years should be given Vitamin A twice or thrice a year.

Mrs Kyeremeh said food-based inventions were being developed to address the deficiency, while food fortification proposal and plan were currently being initiated for the fortification of wheat flour, edible oils and selected locally produced food items and Vitamin A, iron and folic acid.

This, she said would be supported by an intensive marketing strategy to increase awareness and promote consumption of fortified foods.

Cataloguing benefits of Vitamin A, Mrs Kyeremeh said that until recently, Vitamin A deficiency was thought to be a problem affecting the eyes but it was now clear that it was essential for good health and child survival.

Vitamin A deficiency, she said also lowered a child’s resistance to common infections such as diarrhoea and measles and women of reproductive age in Ghana, particularly pregnant and lactating mothers were at greater risk of the deficiency.

Mrs Kyeremeh said lack of Vitamin A can cause night blindness and reduce the body’s resistance to infections, which make it threatening before any obvious signs become apparent.

She noted that improving Vitamin A status among children aged between six months to five years would dramatically increase their chances of survival.

Giving Vitamin A directly to infants ensures increased liver reserves, even if breastfeeding is discontinued while giving it to mothers immediately after birth increases the amount of the vitamin in breast milk and therefore increases the infant’s intake, Mrs Kyeremeh explained.

Source: GNA

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