Tuesday, 22 November 2011

MALNUTRITION: Ghana: Hunger In The Midst Of Plenty; Malnutrition In Northern Ghana

Though an active farming region, cases of hunger and malnutrition abound in the three Northern Regions of Ghana.

Usually, October is the month of the year when food is in abundance. It is without doubt therefore that research figures show about 36 per cent of children under five in the region as malnourished.
With a population of over 150,000, the Kassena-Nankana District describes October as “wondabu chana”, which means “the month in which no child is discriminated against in terms of food”.
The six-month long hunger season which usually spans from January to June ends with the harvest of the early millet in July.
In October, groundnut which is the basic ingredient for making soups and other delicacies is harvested across the district. Other crops such as tubers of yam and sweet potatoes are also harvested.
Rice is also harvested in the central part of the district where an irrigation facility exists. Then follows the growing of tomatoes, which is a major cash crop in the district.
During bumper harvest seasons, leftover food is available even in the poorest of homes. But food is not always in abundance in the Kassena-Nankana District neither does the season of feasting last for months in Northern Ghana.
Even in a bumper harvest there is usually not enough food to last the long dry season. The Upper East Region in particular and Northern Ghana in general, hunger and malnutrition are almost two permanent sides of the same coin, poverty.
Harsh weather conditions significantly affect agricultural yields, which leads to poor nutrition, and aggravates the mortality impact of infectious diseases.
Malnutrition among children below five years in the three Northern Regions in Ghana is three times higher than in the Greater Accra Region.
The cause of maternal and infant malnutrition is attributed to household food insecurity. But food scarcity and malnutrition are not peculiar to Northern Ghana.
According to estimates by the Food and Agriculture Organization, the world produces enough grain to provide every human being on the planet with 3,500 calories a day, which is enough to make most people fat.
In Northern Ghana where majority of the people are farmers, the considerable amounts of cereals produced under normal circumstances should be enough to feed the populace.
They are also primary producers of yam, corn, millet, groundnuts, tomatoes and other food crops, yet 37 per cent of children below five years in Northern Ghana are stunted as compared to 12 per cent of children in Accra Region, whose population depend largely on foodstuffs brought in from Northern Ghana.
Some development organizations are developing schemes to improve the economic conditions of the people in Northern Ghana.
The Gia-Nabio Agro-Forestry Development Organisation in the Kassena-Nankana District for instance has developed Agro-forestry initiatives which provide the district with green cover and other agricultural interventions.
Women especially have been targeted to benefit from such schemes since they are the breadwinners in many households in northern Ghana.
Other schemes also exist to empower women to store food during the harvest season for resale in the lean seasons.

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