Controversy over administration of ‘Iron-Folate’ tablets to adolescent girls in Ashanti

By Akosua Frema Frempong

The Deputy Ashanti Regional Director in charge of Public Health, Dr. Michael Rockson Adjei has debunked speculations that the administration of ‘Iron-Folate’ tablets to adolescent girls in schools is a birth control strategy being deployed with basic and second cycle schools as targets.

He said evidence on the ground has revealed that the ‘Iron-Folate’ vitamin supplement is already creating academic competition among boys and girls by reducing school absenteeism and improved brain alertness, especially among girls taking the tablets. Dr. Adjei disclosed this to our Ashanti Regional Correspondent, Akosua Frema Frempong when she set out to learn more about the health intervention.

The ‘Girls Iron-Folate’, code-named ‘GIFT’, is a carefully introduced health intervention in 2016 by the government targeting adolescent girls from Upper Primary through Junior High School to Second Senior High, Technical and Vocational schools as a long-term strategy to substantially address anaemia and its attendant health complications in children and women. It is being funded by UNICEF and the government of Ghana with the Ghana Health Service and Ghana Education Service being the implementing agencies. Despite the laudable goals of the GIFT programme, its implementation has met challenges thereby undermining the attainment of the set objectives mainly due to misconceptions.

Some parents say the brownish tablet is a family planning device meant to reduce the fertility of girls who take it, and have therefore sternly warned their wards never to accept it when it is administered by their school authorities.

At the Anglican Basic School at Fumesua near Ejisu, the vitamin was being administered by the School Health Education Coordinator, SHEP, Nana Serwaa Agyemang-Badu. From the Upper primary to JHS 2, majority of the eligible girls readily took the vitamin in the presence of the SHEP Coordinator and the Head Mistress. 2 of the girls, who shared their personal experiences from taking the Iron-Folate tablet, spoke highly of the iron pill.

Some of the eligible girls however declined to take the supplementation.

At the Danyame M/A School in the Kumasi Metropolis, the situation was a bit different since almost every eligible girl readily took the iron pill, as the School Health Coordinator, Madam Sara Acquah spoke positively about the intervention.

The Deputy Ashanti Regional Health Director, Dr. Michael Rockson Adjei explained that there are some myths or misconceptions about the iron supplementation.

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