Minister for Planning, Professor George Gyan-Baffour, has said despite the commendable progress made in reducing malnutrition over the last three decades, Ghana still suffers from the triple burden of malnutrition, under-nutrition, over nutrition and micro-nutrition deficiencies.
He said this burden had yielded direct and indirect causes to individuals, families and the nation as a whole.
Prof Gyan-Baffour said this in Accra during the Maiden National Multi-stakeholder Nutrition Forum on the theme “Evidence-Informed Nutrition Policies and Programmes: Now and Beyond”.
The one-day forum was jointly organised and hosted by the University of Ghana, School of Public Health; the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), College of Health Sciences and the University of Health and Allied Sciences, Department of Family and Community Health.
The rest are the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Ghana Strategy Support Programme, the SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and the Ghana Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The meeting convened stakeholders from across various sectors working on food security, nutrition, food environment and nutrition advocacy.
Findings from five nutrition, food environment and food security research initiatives were shared to engage participants in the dissemination process, validating research findings, and policy implications.
The Minister noted that improving nutrition was critical to increasing child survival and ensuring good health for the people of Ghana; stating that “there is ample evidence to suggest that investing in nutrition is good economics because stunted people make stunted economies”.
He said Ghana’s course of hunger in Africa study revealed that the estimated annual cost associated with the effect of child malnutrition or undernutrition amounted to over $2.6 billion, representing 6.4 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
He said in addition, overweight and obesity was increasingly becoming a burden; especially among women.
“Well, men also have obesity. In Ghana, when men have obesity, they call it pot-belly. They think it is great, but certainly it is not.”
Prof Gyan-Baffour said the Planning Ministry was mandated to play a key role in linking the technical output of planning to the necessary political decision-making platform, which was given expression through the public investment programmes and the national budget.
“The Planning Ministry is required to assist in coordinating national policies, harmonising intended actions into concerted plans and programmes, and liaising with the respective sector heads and Office of the President in developing a corresponding public investment portfolio for implementation and plan reviews,” he said.
“It is also to ensure that the national development trajectory falls in tandem with and be guided by international development targets such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the African Agenda 2063.”
Former President John Agyekum Kufuor, in a speech read on his behalf noted that evidence-based interventions directly improved nutrition, where prioritised and implemented.
He said additional evidence also showed that the benefits from improving nutrition far outweighed their costs; stating that “it is therefore commendable that national academics and research institutions are collaborating with developmental partners to generate products to support the implementation of the national nutrition policy”.
Mr Ron Strikker, the Dutch Ambassador to Ghana, said the Kingdom of the Netherlands would continue to support Ghana in its efforts to combat malnutrition.
Mr Eric Banye, the Country Programme Coordinator, SNV Voice for Change Partnership (V4CP) Programme, said the V4CP, which was being implemented by the SNV in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), was being funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said the V4CP sought to generate evidence and build the capacities of civil society organisations to be able to use the evidence and build advocacy.