UNICEF Ghana has charged the government to address the widespread and growing problem of food insecurity in the agriculture sector and invest in a broad set of nutrition-sensitive interventions.
The interventions, it said include food price policies for promoting healthy diets, food safety and aflatoxin prevention, food marketing and advertising practices, food fortification, and the diversification and sustainable intensification of agriculture production.
Mr Jevaise Aballo, Nutrition Officer, UNICEF, who said this in a report during a media training in Accra, said those interventions could help address nutrition deficiencies in the country.
The report dubbed, “2021 Nutrition Budget Brief” indicated that the agriculture sector was a key role-player in ensuring improved nutrition.
It said although agriculture and nutrition shared the common entry point of food – it
being the chief outcome of the former and the chief input to the latter – there was often a significant disconnect between the two sectors.
Despite significant increase in the food production index between 2015 and 2018, both moderate and severe food insecurity in the country grew over the same period, the former from 48.8 per cent in 2015 to 51.1 per cent in 2018 and the latter from 7.6 per cent in 2015 to 8.4 per cent in 2018.
It is, therefore, critical for the nutrition and agriculture sectors to collaborate on a set of interventions that promote better nutrition for all Ghanaians, and for children.
The report noted that the total funding for the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) had generally increased since 2017, meanwhile, nominal funding for the department’s sub-programme responsible for nutrition interventions fell dramatically between 2017 and 2018, with a further 10 per cent reduction planned for 2021.
This in real terms, constitutes a significant reduction in funding for nutrition sub-programmes.
There is, furthermore, an increased reliance on donor funding for nutrition sub-programmes: donor funding as a proportion of total nutrition sub-programme funding has increased from four per cent in 2017 to 56 per cent in 2021.
“For 2020 and 2021, this has exceeded the department’s overall reliance on donor
funding,” it stated.
This is particularly acute for goods and services and expenditure vital for nutrition interventions.
In 2017, only 29 per cent of expenditure on goods and services for nutrition sub-programmes was funded by donors, exceeding 96 per cent in every year since 2017.
The 2021 Programme Based Budget for the MoFA showed that while the overall departmental budget was set for a modest funding increase, funding was set to remain static for nutrition-based programmes, likely to maintain the reliance on donor funding in this space,
particularly for goods and services.
Mr Aballo also asked that greater investments in the prevention and treatment of malnutrition be central to championing a “Ghana Beyond Aid.”
He noted that the prevalence of both weighting and underweight had increased since 2014, while rapid gains made in combating stunting since 2010 had largely stagnated.
Even more worrying was the fact that the rates appeared to be particularly prevalent among children between ages of 12 and 23 months, who were still in critical stage of physical and cognitive development, a period during which undernutrition could have long-term developmental impacts, he added.
These long-term developmental impacts of child undernutrition manifests as significant economic costs to individual, immediate families, communities, the public sector, and the society at large.
Combining these various costs, conservative estimates suggest that the annual economic costs of undernutrition in Ghana was around 6.4 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
The Nutrition Officer called for improved targeting and coverage of high-impact nutrition interventions, particularly in the most vulnerable regions.
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