The Ghana Health Service, (GHS), has received a huge consignment of nutrition supplies obtained through a one million US dollar donation from China, to support efforts to improve child health and reduce under-nutrition through strategic partnerships.
The supplies, which were handed over to the GHS by the UNICEF, were expected to be distributed among 132 health facilities across the North-East Region, and to reach a target of more than 115,000 children under five years of age, nearly 130,000 adolescent girls, and just over 23,000 women in that region, as well as extend to 2,400 children in the Savanna, Upper West, Northern, and Upper East regions.
With this grant, Ghana becomes one of six countries receiving financial support within the framework of the China-UNICEF cooperation against COVlD-19 through China’s South-South Cooperation Assistance Fund.
This would also enable the UNICEF to continue supporting the Government of Ghana with the provision of nutrition supplies such as iron-folic tablets, vitamin A supplements, weighing scales and height boards, ready-to-use therapeutic foods, therapeutic milk and essential medicine, and neonatal intensive care equipment to help newborns survive and thrive.
Mr Fiachra McAsey, the UNICEF Deputy Representative in Ghana, said his outfit was honoured to be working side by side with the Government of Ghana and other collaborators to promote child health, improve upon the progress made together, and looked forward to further strengthening of their strategic partnership.
He also said UNICEF, was proud to embark upon this important initiative and remained committed to delivering results, which would contribute to the Government, Development Partners and UN joint efforts at achieving sustainable impact, especially working towards targets of Goal three in the Sustainable Development Goals.
However, “the COVlD-19 crisis threatens to derail all the progress made so far to improve child health and nutrition in Ghana. It is important that we act now and fast to realize the right of every child to quality health care,” and indicated that the grant would support health and nutrition systems to withstand shock brought on them by the pandemic and “we are very grateful to China Aid for supporting our efforts alongside the Government.”
Dr Kofi Issah, the Director for the Public Health Division, GHS, said Ghana was also grateful for this China-UNICEF Aid, indicating that good nutrition was an important underlying need for children, particularly in a crisis where parents and society faced various hardships.
He said the provision of such rapid ready-to-use therapeutic foods and other nutritional supplements would go a long way to address the challenges of malnutrition, especially in very deprived communities in the beneficiary regions.
He further explained that amid COVlD-19 response actions, the GHS was also focusing its attention and strategies on safeguarding the provision of essential maternal newborn child and nutrition services to reduce avoidable deaths and disabilities and that the partnership at these difficult times was not only timely but critical.
The Government of Ghana, he said, would continue to ensure that no one was left behind, and promote the continuum of care with special focusing on women and children, saying despite the country’s progress in reducing child mortalities, the national average for neonatal and under-five mortalities from the Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) was estimated at 27 and 56 deaths per 1000 live births respectively, which was still high.
Under-nutrition also continued to threaten children’s survival and development in Ghana and accounts for 24 percent of child deaths, with other adverse effects being stunting of growth and abnormal brain function, he said.
Available statistics show that infant and young child feeding practices, breastfeeding and complementary feeding, are under-practiced and contribute to under-nutrition and currently, only 52 per cent of newborn babies are put to the breast within one hour of delivery and 43 per cent are not exclusively breastfed for six months, while only 12 per cent of children between six to 23 months receive high-quality diets with recommended frequency for them to grow and develop well.