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Ghana unlikely to meet MDG 4 target

Even though Ghana is largely on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is unlikely that the 2015 target on MDG 4 will be met unless coverage of effective child survival interventions is increased, the Minister of Health Sherry Ayitey has said.

MDG 4 demands governments to reduce by two-thirds the under-five mortality rate by 2015. To reach this goal, Ghana must cut under-five mortality to less than 50 deaths per 1,000 live births, but the ratio is currently above 70 per 1,000 according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).

“Reaching the MDG on reducing child mortality will require universal coverage with key effective, affordable interventions: care for newborns and their mothers; infant and young child feeding; vaccines; prevention and case management of pneumonia, diarrhoea and sepsis; malaria control; and prevention and care of HIV/AIDS. In countries with high mortality, these interventions could reduce the number of deaths by more than half,” said Ms. Ayitey, speaking at the launch of Cerelac Millet, a new product that has been added to the Cerelac baby-foods brand of Nestlé Ghana Limited.

Ms Ayitey lauded strategies and efforts by multinational organisations in collaboration with governmental institutions to reduce diseases associated with infant mortality such as iron-deficiency anaemia.

“Iron deficiency-anaemia can impair cognitive performance at all stages of life, can increase the risk and severity of other morbidities, and can ultimately result in death,” she said.

She said interventions specifically directed at nutrition and health, dietary diversification and fortification, and other public health interventions that result in improvements in iron nutrition are a step in the right direction.

According to the World Health Organisation, 6.6 million children under five died in 2012. Almost 75% of all child deaths are attributable to just six conditions: neonatal causes, pneumonia, diarrhoea, malaria, measles and HIV/AIDS.

Sub-Saharan Africa has achieved only about 30 percent reduction in under-five mortality, which is less than half of what is required to reach MDG 4 by 2015.

Mrs. Rosanna Agble, a nutrition consultant, called for collaborative efforts between government and the private sector to enable the country to attain MDG4.

She said research has shown that in Ghana only 30 percent of infants aged 6-8 months receive iron-rich foods, compared to 90 percent of those above 2 years.

“Iron deficiency anaemia during infancy may have long-term and irreversible adverse effects on cognitive development.

“In the first six months of life, the infant’s nutritional requirements can be totally satisfied by breast milk; but after the initial six months, the baby needs a supplementary food that contains iron and other necessary nutrients for it to grow well.

“The problem is multi-sectoral, and the private sector should be part of the discussion to reduce anaemia in infants,” she said.

She also advised government to intensify the education campaign for mothers to learn the need for giving their children the necessary balanced diet to help them grow well.

Nestlé’s new Cerelac Millet is fortified with iron and — according to the Brand Manager for Nestlé Nutrition Ghana, Grace Nkrumah, it will help reduce anaemia in infants and curb under-five mortality.

She said because the growth and well-being of children are at the heart of the company, it ensures that infants and children, regardless of their social, economic or cultural situation, receive the best quality nutrition to live a fruitful life.

She said the necessary resources are invested into research using local raw materials to bring innovation and provide the best infant foods with long-term nutritional benefits.

She urged all nursing mothers to use the new Cerelac Millet to improve their children’s health and well-being and also help their cognitive development.
Source: B&FT/Ghana

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