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The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, has launched the Girls’ Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (GIFTS) programme as part of efforts to reduce the high prevalence of anemia among girls in Ghana.
This programme, initiated by the Ghana Health Service (GHS), will be ran in phases, with the first phase targeting about 360,000 in-school adolescent girls and close to 600,000 out of school girls in four regions.
Launching the initiative at the Sunyani Jubilee Park on Wednesday, October 11 2017 the First Lady noted that: “Anemia is a serious public health problem that affects women, adolescent girls and children and current data indicates that over four in ten women have anemia in Ghana and about half of all adolescent girls and pregnant women in Ghana are also anemic.”
She noted that in adolescents, Anaemia limits development, learning ability, reduces concentration in daily tasks, increases vulnerability to dropping out of school and reduces physical fitness and work productivity generally, depriving adolescent girls of the ability to attain their fullest potential.
She further stated that: “If for any unfortunate reason an anemic adolescent girl becomes pregnant, she has a higher risk of delivering a premature baby, a low birth weight baby or even tragically, die during or after delivery.”
In light of these risk factors, the First Lady said that the problem of anemia in adolescent girls should be treated with urgency and the required investment in their nutrition made.
She stated that though the best solution to anemia in adolescent girls, according to experts, is to give them nutrient-rich food with additional meat, liver, chicken, egg or fish, it is also important to supplement that by providing them with iron folate supplements routinely for immediate health and developmental benefits. These supplements, she indicated, will help improve iron stores, which in turn helps them stay alert in class and have the energy to perform physical activities both at school and at home.
The First Lady said that experts have assured the programme is highly cost-effective and the benefits far outweigh the costs, noting that: “When we invest in adolescent nutrition now, they will stay in school longer, perform better in school and ultimately, we will create a more productive laboor force which is a crucial precondition for economic development.”
She further noted that the success of this programme “depends on effective and sustained communication through multiple channels on the benefits and safety of the supplements to ensure greater acceptance and adherence to supplementation schemes, as well as allay fears about possible side effects”.
She said that since most adolescents do not have access to information on anemia, it is important to reach out to them through schoolteachers, school principals, youth clubs and health workers in the community in order to achieve good results.
She entreated all stakeholders to support the programme to ensure its success by becoming champions of the initiative to help reduce the anemia prevalence in Ghana.