Feature Article of Monday, 21 May 2012

Columnist: Bassah, Dominic

Changing the fortunes of Ghana in the first 1000 days

-the nutrition factor.

Every country formulates policies and develops strategies to strengthen its economy. Consequently, the emphases laid on the creation of healthy and well-nourished citizens with potentials to drive the progress of the nation, as a prerequisite for sustainable and productive economies is grossly underestimated.
The first 1000 days, from a mother’s pregnancy until the second birthday of her child offers a unique and critical window of opportunities to establish a strong foundation for a healthy and productive future-the foundation of a buoyant economy.

The first 1000 days of life also has a profound impact on a child’s ability to learn and rise out of poverty in the future.Improving nutrition during the first 1000 days of life has a lifelong benefit which translates into the future productivity of the country. It can also shape the long term health stability and prosperity of a society and the nation at large. We need to have a future of improved livelihood and our future starts from the first 1000 days of life.
Today, undernutrition is a leading cause of death of young children throughout the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that malnutrition contributes to about one-third of the 9.7 million child deaths that occur each year. Infant mortality in Ghana is 50 deaths per 1,000 live births and under-?ve mortality is 80 deaths. This means that 1 in every 20 Ghanaian children dies before reaching age one. In Ghana, more than one-quarter (28%) of all children under age five are stunted—that is, they are too short for their age. One in ten children is severely stunted. Stunting re?ects a failure to receive adequate food intake over a long period of time, and is, therefore, a measure of chronic malnutrition.

Almost 1 in 10 children under ?ve is wasted —that is, they are too thin for their height. Wasting re?ects the failure to receive adequate nutrition in the period immediately before the survey and also may be due to childhood illness. It is considered a measure of acute malnutrition. Overall, 14% of children under age ?ve are underweight—that is, they are too thin for their age. Underweight is a composite indicator combining both chronic and acute malnutrition.

During pregnancy, undernutrition can have a devastating effect on the healthy growth and development of a child in utero. Babies who are malnourished in utero, have a higher risk of dying in infancy and more likely to face lifelong cognitive and physical deficit and chronic health.

For infants and children under the age of two, the consequences of undernutrition are particularly severe, often irreversible and reaching far into the future.

In developing countries, micronutrients are just not insurance as is the case in developed countries to supplement diets. Here micronutrients dictate the difference between going blind and having a clear view of the future, between a brittle bone and a solid foundation, between energy deficiency and strong mental and physical performance.

Well nourished children achieve more in school and are better equipped to overcome health conditions which are rampantly fatal in developing countries. The effects of early nutrition are lasting and influence wellbeing in later life. The intergenerational nature of nutritional insult reduces the productivity of a country through unhealthy human resources through the recurrence of unhealthy individuals in the population.
Children who are well nourished are able to grow to their full potential, physically and more importantly mentally. They grow to become healthier adults and women are more likely to have healthy pregnancies and desirable pregnancy outcomes.
The fact cannot be glossed over that health is intrinsically correlated with economic development. The focus of nutrition is to improve health and livelihood-a prerequisite for accelerated economic growth.

Improving maternal and child nutrition comes with an opportunity to create sustainable change in the lives of millions of people by bolstering efforts to advance both health and development. Putting nutrition on the national agenda is one of the surest ways of ensuring sustainable human resource to drive the development agenda of the nation forward.

We should not forget that HEALTH is WEALTH!!