Food and nutrition security has been given its right of place under the social development section of Ghana’s long-term development plan-the 40-year National Development Plan (2018-2057), Prof. Kwesi Botchwey, Chairman of the National Development Commission (NDPC), has disclosed.

Prof. Botchwey said food and nutrition was receiving attention on Ghana’s long-term development agenda because of the need to harness Ghana’s demographic dividend through the creation of a large wealthy and educated middle class, technologically driven, productive, gainfully employed, entrepreneurial and politically empowered to spearhead the socio-economic transformation of Ghana.

He noted that the multiple burden of malnutrition posed a threat to human development, development aspirations and the foundation for sustained socio-economic development.

He, therefore, called on Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the private sector, development partners, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and political parties to support NDPC to mainstream the nutrition sector into Ghana’s development agenda and make Ghana a country free of malnutrition

Prof. Botchwey was speaking in a key note address delivered on his behalf at the launch of the Ghana Report on the Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) Project in Accra, yesterday.

In a statement, Mr Thomas Yanga, Director, World Food Programme, Africa Office, said the goal of eliminating stunting was key to achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of achieving Zero Hunger.

Mr Yanga said the fight against malnutrition required a multi-sectoral approach and significant interventions in nutrition strategies which should be prioritized in all development programmes from the community to national level.

He commended Ghana for the great strides it had made in reducing child under-nutrition from 34 per cent in the 1990s to 19 per cent in 2014, adding, however, that more efforts were required for Ghana to achieve the African Union target of 10 per cent stunting and 5 per cent underweight by 2025.

In her remarks, Dr Margaret Agama-Anyetei, Head of Health, Nutrition and Population Division, African Union Commission, said eradicating malnutrition was vital to the African Union’s (AU’s) vision and Action Plan for the next 50 years, referred to as Agenda 2063.

Dr Agama-Anyetei added that the realization of Agenda 2063 and the achievement of the SDGs would not be possible without fully harnessing all sectors of the population which, she said, included children.

For his part, Prof. Agyeman Badu Akosa Commissioner, NDPC and Focal Person for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, expressed concern about the lack of financial support for nutrition interventions even though evidence was available to show that for every US $ 1 spent on nutrition, there was a US $ 16 return.

Prof. Akosa said mainstreaming nutrition should, therefore, be regarded as a development priority, accompanied by adequate financing and accountability, and an enabling environment with genuine commitment by all stakeholders to nationally-agreed goals and targets.

In an address delivered on his behalf, Dr Nii Moi Thompson, Director-General, NDPC, expressed gratitude to the Africa Union Commission (AUC), United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP) for supporting the COHA project which he described as a tremendous advocacy tool and a call to action around malnutrition.

Dr Esther Ofei-Aboagye, Vice Chairperson, NDPC, and Chairperson for the occasion, in her closing remarks, reiterated the call on MDAs, the private sector, development partners, CSOs and political parties to support NDPC to mainstream the nutrition sector into Ghana’s development agenda and make Ghana a country free of malnutrition.

The COHA Study is a project led by AUC and the New Partnership of Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency and supported by UNECA and WFP. COHA is a multi-country study aimed at estimating the economic and social impacts of child under-nutrition in Africa.

This continent-wide initiative is being led by the Department of Social Affairs, AUC, within the framework of the Revised African Regional Nutrition Strategy (2005-2015), the objectives of the African Task Force on Food and Nutrition Development (ATFFND) and the principles of the AU/NEPAD?s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Pillar 3.

The initiative highlights a new understanding by African governments of child under-nutrition as not only a health or social issue, but also as an economic issue. The initiative also highlights the African Union’s strong leadership in addressing development issues, as well as the collaboration among governments and agencies within the continent.

The study is being carried out in 12 countries, namely Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritania, Rwanda, Swaziland and Uganda.

The Ghana Report of the COHA project presents the results of a study on child under-nutrition in Ghana, implemented under the leadership of the AUC and the Government of Ghana, in partnership with the WFP and the UNECA.

The COHA report reveals that under-nutrition is taking a heavy toll on Ghana’s economy, with 37 per cent of the adult population in Ghana suffering from stunting, 24 per cent of all child mortality cases in Ghana associated with under-nutrition and child mortality associated with under-nutrition having reduced Ghana’s workforce by 7.3 per cent.

In 2012, according to the COHA report, Ghana as a result of child under-nutrition, experienced a loss of 4.6 billion Ghana cedis, equivalent to 6.4 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

The report concludes that these costs are preventable if investment in human capital is prioritized.

The Government of Ghana, African Development Bank, French Development Agency, Office of the United Nations Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Rockefeller Foundation and WFP funded the study.

Source: Government of Ghana