Category: Health & Lifestyle Created on Wednesday, 29 August 2012 13:43 Published Date Written by All Ghana News Hits: 202
Accra, Aug. 29, GNA – A three-day workshop to review and strengthen national strategies for reduction of stunting in children in West Africa has opened in Accra on Tuesday, with a call on partners to simplify their language to achieve results.
“We must not forget nor underestimate the importance and value of simplicity in effective messaging…communicating the message in simple language in order to achieve the possible results,” Dr Iyabode Olusanmi, UNICEF Representative, said.
The workshop is being organized by UNICEF, Ghana, in collaboration with Ghana Health Service (GHS) for 51 participants from Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, to deliberate on how to collectively scale up a package of nutritional interventions in these countries.
Dr Olusanmi said stunting was not just about being short but stunted children were vulnerable to diseases and they never got to their full cognitive capacity.
”It also affects the performance of children in school, their productivity as adults, and are likely to become obese during adulthood, and potentially adding to expenditure on the health services, all of which ultimately lead to a loss in Gross Domestic Product for countries,” she said.
Dr Olusanmi said the most vulnerable period for stunting was the first 1000 days of life … from pregnancy to two years of age and stressed the need to communicate in a simple language for public understanding.
She said another key issue that needed to be considered and implemented was how service providers could spend more time to explain to fathers, mothers and care takers about washing hands with soap, especially after visiting the toilet and before handling food.
Others, Dr Olusanmi said, included exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months; feeding babies with high energy and nutrient rich foods, especially animal sources of food; and seeking appropriate treatment from health facilities when children get ill.
“In African culture, women often prioritize men and give them the best portions of the family meal. Nutrition messages need to reach men as well so that they can provide enough of the best portions to feed their children as well,” she said.
Dr Olusanm asked the participants to also focus their discussions on those in the lower income group and how they could put experts’ recommendation into practice.
She said: “it is not only morally just to do this, but it is by so doing that we can aim to universally achieve our development goals.”
Dr Frank Nyonator, Acting Director General, GHS, said stunting in children was a serious problem that continued to plague many countries in Africa and because it was not routinely measured or monitored in child health clinics, the majority of people did not easily recognize stunting, let alone understand its causes.
He said that had been coupled by the fact that for a long time, many surveys had merely assessed stunting as indicator of child nutritional status and most programmes did not specifically address stunting as a problem.
Dr Nyonator said it was not surprising that the pace of reduction in stunting has been very slow over several years.
He announced that survey trends in Ghana across a 20-year span, show that prevalence of stunting reduced by only six per cent from 1988 to 2008.
Dr Nyonator said he was glad that the workshop would look at how existing strategies and programmes could be strengthened to accelerate reduction of stunting.
He said through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement stakeholders began talking about the interventions in the first 1000 days since September 2010, and various leaders and organizations have expressed their vision and commitment to ending the tragedy of stunting in children.
Dr Nyonator said the former First lady, Dr Naadu Mills, launched the SUN movement in December 2011 in Ghana and currently a cross-sectoral planning group had been formed on nutrition under the umbrella of the National Development Planning Commission.
“From the Government side, it is very important that our in-country policies, strategies and programmes are reviewed to reflect our peculiar situation and strengthened to adequately address the issue and multifaceted causes of stunting.
“In Ghana, continued efforts in reducing barriers to healthcare, by closing the geographical and particularly financial access gaps are seemingly beginning to reflect in the downward trends that have been observed in prevalence of stunting across the wealth quintile,” he said.
Dr Nyonator noted that improvement in water and sanitation has also contributed to lowering stunting in many regions which were once tagged worse-off.
He urged stakeholders to examine the bottlenecks and come up with strategies that could help to improve competencies and skills of service providers, to enable them to identify stunting in Children, counsel mothers, caregivers, fathers, grandmothers and other family members.
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