The Upper West Region has not made significant improvements in the under-nutrition situation among children less than five years.
Acute malnutrition, which could be prevented and managed with optimum nutrition and improved health, had increased from 7.7 per cent in 2006 to 9.2 per cent in 2011, Dr Abdulai Adams Forgor, Upper West Regional Director of Health Services, has said.
Giving the malnutrition statistics at this year’s Nutrition Review and Planning Meeting, Dr Forgor said it was not surprising that the region was not doing well because it was still bedeviled with food insecurity, poor hygiene and sanitation practices.
He said immediate determinants of this under nutrition were inadequate food intake and disease or infections among children less than five years in the region.
Quoting from World Food Programme Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis Report of 2012, Dr Forgor said 22.3 per cent of households in the region were moderately food insecured and 1.4 per cent was severe food unsecured.
This, he said, meant that a total of 23.7 per cent of households suffered from one level of food insecurity or the other, while from 2006 to 2011 households that used improved sanitary facilities had increased from 17.3 per cent to 24.3 per cent and with open defecation by adults decreasing from 78.7 per cent to 71.1 per cent.
“This is still very serious and has a lot of health implications and increased infection rates which eventually result in under-nutrition in children less than five years,” he said.
Dr Forgor, who also gave perturbing statistics on stunting among children, said stunting for the region was 22.5 per cent in 2006 but that had increased to 23.1 per cent in 2011.
Stunting is a chronic under-nutrition which can start in utro, when a pregnant woman is malnourished during her pregnancy.
The Regional Director of Health Services said stunting had serious consequences in the life of a growing child, both short term and long term, with the short term implications being its ability to affect cognitive, motor and language development of the affected.
Some of its long term challenges include increased health expenditure and opportunity costs for care of the sick and increased morbidity and mortality, as well as reduced learning capacity, poor school performance and work capacity and productivity among others.
Dr Forgor said the Regional Health Directorate was implementing several nutrition interventions to help prevent malnutrition or manage it when it was detected.
He mentioned the Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices (IYCF) as one of the preventive interventions which involved counseling of caregivers and other family members on infant and young child feeding practices at the various health facilities and at the community level.
The IYCF targeted pregnant women and women with children less than five years to help improve maternal and child care practices at the household level.
Dr Forgor said the Community Based Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition was also a rehabilitative intervention for children with severe acute malnutrition or severe wasting, who were sent to the facilities and rehabilitated using a therapeutic food.
Children less than five years with this condition were treated at the outpatient department and those with severe conditions were admitted.
He said People Living with HIV and AIDS and Tuberculosis were also treated with fortified blended flour in addition to the plumpy nuts from World Food Programme under the Nutrition Assessment, Counselling and Support intervention.
The Regional Directorate has also embarked on a campaign aimed at informing people about the importance of consuming iodised salt a the household level meant to achieve 90 per cent adequate salt iodisation at the household level.
The two days review forum was on the theme: “Harnessing Sectors for Multi-sectoral Coordinating and Planning for Nutrition.”
It would review nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive activities and plan for scaling up priority interventions in 2015 to meet the specific objectives of the national nutrition policy as part of the common results framework of Ghana.
Stakeholders in the health sector attended the meeting.