The First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo, on Tuesday inaugurated the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND) to provide leadership and ensure the coordination of all nutrition and dietary issues in the country.
The academy, which is a merger of the Associations of Nutrition and Dietetics respectively, is expected to bring a new impetus to the promotion and achievement of quality nutrition in Ghana and change the country’s average nutritional narrative.
Mrs Akufo-Addo commended the leadership of the two associations for their foresight and bold initiative to join forces to address the nutrition and dietary challenges of Ghanaians, saying it was the exact partnership needed to mobilise efforts for the implementation of the country’s Nutrition Policy.
The rich caliber of the membership of the academy, she noted, was a clear indication that the country “lack no professionals,” to make nutrition a priority, ensuring that “no one is left behind”.
National development agenda
The First Lady, who is also the Executive Director of the Rebecca Foundation, and also Ghana’s Nutrition Champion, underscored the central role of good nutrition in the achievement of national development agendas, including the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), particularly the Goal two.
She said as much as having enough food to eat was important, it was critical that the quality was not compromised, calling for the maintenance of a favourable environment and enhanced sanitation, among other conditions for sustainable improved agriculture.
The First Lady called for the need to develop effective policies to streamline “what we eat,” to prevent the adverse health effects of these compounds on humans and animals, saying “we live in a globalised community where farmers apply all forms of agro-based chemicals to agricultural produce”.
She said the Rebecca Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of Health, Ghana Health Service, and other stakeholders have been working on a number of interventions, including the Girl’s Iron Folate and promotion of the exclusive breastfeeding for six months, but a lot more must be done to accelerate the decline in the adverse effects of poor nutrition among Ghanaians.
Mrs Akufo-Addo said the government’s flagship programmes such as the “Planting for Food and Jobs, and “Rearing for Food and Jobs” respectively, were all efforts geared towards the improvement of food security and quality nutrition for Ghanaians.
She pledged to support in every way possible towards the fight against malnutrition, especially in children and adolescents.
Dr Kingsley A. Pereko, the Interim President of the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (GAND), said challenges including exclusive breastfeeding, anaemia among pregnant women and adolescent girls, Non-communicable Diseases such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cancers and heart diseases were still very high, with their huge cost implications to the national budget, which should be a cause for worry.
He said in spite of the importance of good nutrition, there had been very little advocacy and budgetary allocation, and blamed this on the limited knowledge on their importance, as well as the availability of professionals in the past.
He said the current improvement in the training of nutrition and dietary professionals and the merger of the two associations, would safeguard Ghana’s nutrition integrity, ensuring a credible institution to prevent the influx of counterfeit and substandard foods.
He acknowledged the respective roles being played by both Ghana’s President, Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo-Addo and the First Lady, Mrs Akufo-Addo, in terms of prioritising good nutrition as part of the national development agenda.
“It would be strategic to leverage on these two leaderships,” and promised that with the inauguration of GAND, the challenges being encountered should be a thing of the past.
Stunted, wasted and undernourished
Professor Baffour Agyeman-Duah, the Chief Executive Officer of the John Agyekum Kufuor Foundation, said statistics available showed that a third of children in developing countries were stunted, wasted and undernourished.
He urged the academy to work hard to improve on its research to solve Ghana’s nutritional problems, and pledged the support of the Foundation to GAND.
Ms Mary Mperi, the Focal Person on Nutrition at the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), said the Academy was expected to influence policy priorities, provide quality feedback to the government on the positives and challenges, sustain dialogue with policy makers and demand for accountability from the government.
Prof. Francis B. Zotor, a Council Member of the International Union of Nutritional Sciences, called for the development of a food-based dietary guideline and partnership with policy makers to improve on the country’s nutritional status.