Lady Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo yesterday 11th October,2017 launched the Girls’ Iron and Folic Acid supplementation (GIFTS) programme as part of efforts to reduce the high prevalence of Anaemia among girls in Ghana.
This programme initiated by the Ghana Health Service will be run in phases with the first phase targeting about 360,000 in-school adolescent girls and close to 600,000 out of schoolgirls in four regions.
Launching the initiative at the Sunyani Jubilee Park yesterday, the First Lady noted that “Anaemia is a serious public health problem that affects women, adolescent girls and children and current data indicates that over four in ten women have Anaemia in Ghana and about half of all adolescent girls and pregnant women in Ghana are also Anaemic.”
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 anaemic 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 the light of these risk factors, the First Lady said that the problem of Anaemia in adolescent girls should be treated with urgency and the required investment in their nutrition made.
She stated that though the best solution to Anaemia 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 labor 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 Anaemia, 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 Anaemia prevalence in Ghana.