Journalists urge government to tackle under-nutrition through school feeding

Journalists at a round table discussion on Ghana’s 2011 Nutrition Profiles Results, have called on government to increase spending on the School Feeding Programme (SFP) and extend it to all basic schools as vehicle for halting serious under-nutrition and low Intelligence Quotient (IQ) among children in the country.

The Profiles Results reported that “scientific evidence shows that there is an average loss of about 13.5 IQ points” in iodine deficient communities.

“Profiles as used in the report is a tool that consists of a set of models reflecting current scientific knowledge, designed to estimate consequences of under nutrition.

It compares two scenarios, the status quo scenario and improved scenario.

The status quo scenario assumes that there is no change in nutrition indicators over the selected time period (aside from projected changes in population).

This is compared with the improved scenario which assumes that proven, effective interventions are implemented at scale to reduce nutrition problems and reach targets that are in alignment with Ghana’s development agenda.

Its outcomes projected that almost 1.5 million children will be affected by mild to severe irreversible brain damage due to iodine deficiency by 2020 given the projected birth rate from 2011-2020.

It said “strong political leadership and commitment are needed at the highest levels to ensure that health, nutrition, and agriculture-related programmes address the causes of under-nutrition.

The Results were put together by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in collaboration with USAID, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance (FANTA III), The Science of Improving Lives (fhi360), World Health Organisation (WHO), World Food Programme (WEP) and UNICEF under the slogan, “Build the Future. Invest in Nutrition Now.”

The Report observed in a summary that “Investment in effective nutrition interventions at scale would result in earlier school enrolment, children staying in school longer and better school performance.”

It also estimated that during the period 2011-2020, more than 30,000 children’s lives could be saved by reducing the prevalence or underweight, more than 25,000 children’s lives could be saved by reducing vitamin A deficiency.

“By decreasing stunting alone, economic gains could exceed 720 million cedis (US$504 million), by 2020,” it said.

The Journalists therefore argued that given the gravity of the under-nutrition situation a nationwide SFP was the surest way that Ghana could secure its children against the problem and prevent its consequences on the children and the economy.

They also suggested that attention be given to the quality of feeding in Senior High Schools as part of a nationwide strategy at   tackling under-nutrition through the school system.

The Journalists argued that the country required pupils and students with high Intelligent Quotient (IQ) if propositions by political parties aimed at expanding access and opportunities to education from Basic to Senior High School levels were to be beneficial to the country.

They asserted that classrooms and lecture halls full of pupils and students whose IQ levels are suspect would be wasted investment.

The Journalists therefore suggested that more nutritionists be trained and the Nutrition Division of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) be mandated to exert its influence on school feeding in the country.

Source: GNA

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