Accra- Ghana (PANA) -- Ghana's Vice President Aliu Mahama on Monday predicted that high mortality rates would occur among children below the age of five if their nutrition is not improved within the next five years.
"Statistics show that over 28 percent of our children are stunted," he said in a speech read on his behalf at the opening of a five-day ECOWAS nutrition meeting in Accra.
"These children would grow up to be stunted adults with reduced physical capacity and productivity.
"We are told by our researchers that the productivity of physical labour declines by 1.
4 percent out of every one per cent reduction in adult height.
"In economic terms, Ghana will lose nearly 300 million dollars in future economic production as a direct result of the poor nutrition of our children," Mahama said.
Delegates at the meeting will focus on maternal and adolescent nutrition and deliberate on food safety, particularly the foot and mouth and mad cow diseases.
Mahama said even though malnutrition is an economic as well as a health issue in Africa, only a few African countries have effective and well co-ordinated programmes to manage the situation.
He stressed the need to pay attention to nutrition-related disorders and other micro-nutrient-deficiency issues such as Vitamin A.
Alhaji Mahama said vitamin A deficiency could account for one out of every six child deaths in Ghana, adding that its elimination would save families and households about 11 million dollars and government would save nearly 58 million dollars on sick children.
He said that in developing appropriate programmes for the management of malnutrition in the sub-region, women's role in determining the status of family health would have to be recognised.
"This is important since we are dealing with a problem that has serious implications for the family in both control measures and management.
"Indeed literacy and educational status of women are known to be core long-term determinants of health for both families and communities.
" Meanwhile, the Ghanaian Minister of Women and Children's Affairs, Gladys Asmah, said without adequate education, health care and access to jobs, many women face their household responsibilities without sufficient power or resources.
She said available data in Ghana indicated that over 65 percent of pregnant women and 45 per cent of non-pregnant women in the northern parts are malnourished, compared to 43 percent and 30 percent percent in the southern part.
She blamed some taboos in the African culture for contributing to malnutrition among pregnant and lactating women and children.