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Healthy diets in Ghana. Ministers agree: must move from feeding to nourishing

Ministers commit to rise to the challenge of improving Ghanaians’ diets through coordinated cross-sector action.

19 March 2019, Accra – Today an inter-Ministerial meeting organised by the Ministry of Planning, convened 3 ministers and technical advisers to build on President Akufo-Addo’s commitment to tackle malnutrition. The meeting aimed to identify ways to implement policies to improve diets, while contributing to a wide range of policy goals across government.

While undernutrition still affects one quarter of Ghanaian children under five, obesity and overweight rates are also increasing. This public health problem could impact significantly on the national economy. Diet-driven diabetes already costs Ghana US $55 million per year, rising to US $133 million/year by 2045.

“We know there is so much work to be done to address malnutrition in not just children but in the larger population. If we don’t act now, poor diet will continue to hamper our children’s development, the economy and the wellbeing of Ghana’’ said H.E. First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo at the meeting. “We know the economic, social, health and even political cost of malnutrition. There is a worrying trend of malnutrition in Africa so when I call for action, I call for a paradigm shift of repositioning our food system from ‘’feeding’’ to ‘’nourishing’’ The first lady emphasized. ‘’I just want to remind us all that, even though we have made some progress we still have significant challenges ”, said the First Lady, who recently took up the role of Ghana Nutrition Champion as part of the African Leaders for Nutrition initiative.

As part of the effort to improve diets, the John A. Kufuor Foundation and the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition have called on policymakers to consider giving greater priority to avoiding the loss and waste of nutritious foods already being produced.  

A policy brief on nutrient loss and waste, presented at the meeting, points out that many of the foods that are critical components of healthy diets are also the most perishable. With half of fruits and vegetables lost or wasted in Ghana before reaching our plates, reducing such loss would not just yield substantial benefits to diets and health, but for economies and the environment too.

Prof Gyan Baffour, Minister of Planning declares: ‘’Optimal nutrition is vital to our country’s development. Deficiencies in the nutritional status of the different cohort of our population is a matter of concern to our policy makers due to its negative impact on the country’s socioeconomic development’’ He continues “The nation has demonstrated progress in tackling malnutrition of the seven African countries that is on course to attaining the WHA target on in children under five. This notwithstanding, there is ample evidence that the countries nutrition transition is as result of rapid socioeconomic, demographic and technological change has implication for development planning. ‘’The High Level Inter Ministerial Roundtable is expected to provide opportunity for the different ministries to better understand their roles and contributions to improving the nutrition status of all citizenry throughout their life cycle and its contribution to sustainable development. It will also demonstrate how addressing all forms of malnutrition can contribute a wide range of policy goals across government as well as the importance of multi sectoral action on food system to deliver healthy diets that can help existing policy priority and commitment in key ministries.

Ghana is seizing the opportunity to provide leadership in Africa on tackling malnutrition. Prof. Baffour Agyemna-Duah, CEO, John A. Kufuor Foundation commented: “This administration has shown willingness to shift policy priorities from feeding to nourishing its people. The JAK foundation and Global Panel stand ready to support such courageous and much needed action.”

An agreed inter-Ministerial consensus statement of intent to improve food systems and diets is available here: glopan.org/ghananutritionstatement 

The Global Panel's previous activities in Ghana

Policy brief on food loss and waste

Inter-Ministerial meeting