Addressing Nutrition Challenges, UNICEF Tasks Ghana

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UNICEF Ghana has tasked the government to tackle the widespread and growing problem of food insecurity in the agricultural sector and invest in a wide range of nutrition-sensitive interventions.

Interventions, he said, include food pricing policies to promote healthy diets, food security and aflatoxin prevention, food marketing and advertising practices, food fortification and the diversification and sustainable intensification of agricultural production.

UNICEF Nutrition Officer Mr. Jevaise Aballo, who said this in a report during a media training in Accra, said these interventions could help address nutritional deficiencies in the country.

The report entitled “2021 Nutrition Budget Brief” indicates that the agricultural sector is a key player in ensuring better nutrition.

He said that although agriculture and nutrition share the common entry point of food – which is the main outcome of the former and the main input of the latter – there was often a significant disconnect between the two sectors.

Despite a significant increase in the food production index between 2015 and 2018, moderate and severe food insecurity in the country increased during the same period, with the former rising from 48.8% in 2015 to 51.1 % in 2018 and the second from 7.6% in 2018. 2015 to 8.4% in 2018.

It is therefore essential that the nutrition and agriculture sectors collaborate on a set of interventions that promote better nutrition for all Ghanaians and for children.

The report notes that total funding for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) has generally increased since 2017, while nominal funding for the department’s sub-programme dealing with nutrition interventions has dropped dramatically between 2017 and 2017. 2018, with an additional 10%. reduction planned for 2021.

This, in real terms, constitutes a significant reduction in funding for nutrition sub-programs.

There is, furthermore, an increased reliance on donor funding for nutrition sub-programmes: donor funding as a proportion of total nutrition sub-programme funding has increased from 4% in 2017 to 56 % in 2021.

“For 2020 and 2021, this exceeded the department’s overall reliance on donor funding,” he said.

This is particularly acute for goods and services and life-saving expenditures for nutrition interventions.

In 2017, only 29% of expenditure on goods and services for nutrition sub-programs was funded by donors, exceeding 96% every year since 2017.

MoFA’s 2021 program-based budget showed that while the department’s overall budget was set for a modest increase in funding, funding should remain static for nutrition-focused programs that are likely to maintain dependence on the donor funding in this space, especially for goods. And services.

Mr. Aballo also called for greater investment in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition to be at the heart of promoting a “Ghana Beyond Aid”.

He noted that the prevalence of overweight and underweight had increased since 2014, while the rapid progress made in addressing stunting since 2010 had largely stalled.

Even more worrying was the fact that the rates appeared to be particularly prevalent among children aged 12-23 months, who were still at a critical stage of physical and cognitive development, a time when undernutrition could have long-lasting impacts. term on development, he added. added.

These long-term developmental impacts of child undernutrition manifest themselves in significant economic costs to individuals, immediate families, communities, the public sector and society as a whole.

Combining these various costs, conservative estimates suggest that the annual economic costs of undernutrition in Ghana amounted to approximately 6.4% of gross domestic product (GDP).

The nutrition officer called for improved targeting and coverage of high-impact nutrition interventions, especially in the most vulnerable regions.

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