The amount, he said, was lost through health-related problems such as diabetes and hypertension contracted by the citizens.
Addressing a press conference on Food and Nutrition Security in Ghana at Accra on Thursday, dubbed ‘Open Letter – A Call to Presidential Candidates to commit to Ending malnutrition in Ghana’, Mr Kamara said malnutrition was having a devastating effect on Ghanaians and the economy.
He said though the country had done well in reducing stunting from 35 per cent in 2003, to 19 per cent in 2014, there was still much to be done to eradicate malnutrition, stressing that “government must prioritise spending on malnutrition in the budget.”
“According to a recent African Union Cost of Hunger in Africa (COHA) study, Ghana’s economy is losing more than $2 billion per year due to the impact of child malnutrition. With a 16-fold return on investment, tackling this silent killer is one of the best buys in development,” he said.
He said statistics on malnutrition in 2015, indicated that seven out of 10 children in Ghana suffered from Vitamin A deficiency, and seven out of 10 under the age of five and two out of five women were anaemic, adding that regional disparities with stunting rates were as high as 32 per cent in Northern Region, and 23 per cent in Upper West Region.
Mr Kamara said there was still lack of coherence in laws concerning food fortification, baby foods, salt iodisation and other food standards, indicating that there was the need to amend some legislative instruments developed to assist with the smooth implementation of the National Nutrition Policy (2013-2017) and National Nutrition Scale- up Plan.
“Through strategic interventions, this could change. We urge you to commit to accelerating the implementation of aggressive plans to combat malnutrition if elected as President of Ghana, as outlined in the ambitious African Union Malabo Nutrition commitment to reduce stunting to 10 per cent by 2025 and as stated in Goal 2 of the new Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
Mr Kamara said, “we would be keen to hear your perspective and plans on this important issue once elected. A future, productive, well-nourished and healthy workforce in Ghana depends on tackling malnutrition and promoting nutritional well-being today.”
“We would also be pleased to have a bilateral meeting with you or a member of your team to further discuss the huge developmental gains to be made with investments in nutrition,” he said.
Mr Kamara quoting from COHA said “10.5 per cent of all repetitions in school are associated with stunting,” and “37 per cent of the adult population in Ghana suffered from stunting as children,” and stressed malnutrition must be mainstreamed into the country educational and development programmes.
Ace Actor, Michel Majid, said leadership was critical to addressing malnutrition in the country.
He said the effect of malnutrition could live with an individual forever and efforts must be made to eradicate malnutrition in the country.
Dorine Nininahazwe, ONE Africa Representative to the African Union, said her organisation which has more than seven million members across the world, was pushing for African governments to allocate more funding to nutrition issues.
In 2014, she said 3 million under age five lost their lives through malnutrition, saying for children who survive past age five, chronic malnutrition permanently impairs their physical and cognitive development.
By Kingsley Asare