The ongoing Girls’ Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) Programme meant to prevent anaemia among adolescent girls is facing some challenges in the Ningo-Prampram District of the Greater Accra Region.
The challenges are that some parents suspect the supplements might be for birth control purposes and have discouraged their daughters from patronising the programme.
Other parents have visited some schools in the area to warn teachers not to administer the supplements to their daughters (pupils).
This issue formed one of the topics discussed last week at an adolescent reproductive health programme organised by the Ningo-Prampram Health Directorate.
However the Ningo-Prampram District Director of Health, Ms Gifty Ansah, explained that GIFTS was rather an intervention to help shore up the blood levels of the girls, prevent anaemia so that they would do well at school and have good health outcomes.
She said they were giving the supplements to girls only, because they menstruate and were more vulnerable than the boys.
GIFTS is a public health intervention being implemented by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) in collaboration with the Ghana Education Service since 2018. It is designed to provide adolescent girls with weekly iron and folic acid tablets free of charge to help prevent anaemia.
Anaemia has been a public health problem in Ghana for several years. It is common among children, adolescent girls and women of childbearing age. Four out of ten women, and seven out of ten children below five years are currently affected. Among women, those within the adolescent group are most affected with almost five out of 10 adolescents aged 15 to 19 years (48 per cent) being anaemic.
Iron and Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation has been shown to be a cost-effective intervention for addressing anaemia. In Ghana, IFA supplementation has focused on pregnant women. Starting IFA supplementation for adolescent girls and continuing into adulthood improves girls’ iron status, and reduces their susceptibility to anaemia.
The GIFTS Programme aims to provide once weekly Iron and Folic Acid in a combined tablet to In-school and Out-of-School adolescent girls on a fixed day.
Ms Ansah said before implementation of the programme in the district, the GHS organised stakeholder consultation to inform opinion leaders, the general assembly meeting and wrote to relevant institutions about it.
She said they were going to intensify their education to overcome the negative feedback they were getting.
The Assembly member for Lekpogunor Electoral Area, Mr
Henry K. Narh, said some parents were suspicious it was a family planning tablet (to reduce the number of children one can give birth to) advised their daughters not to take it.
He said some students said they stopped taking the tablet because sometimes they came to school on empty stomach and taking the tablets on those occasions made them feel dizzy.
The Assembly member for North Dawhenya Electoral Area, Mr Moses Kutor, said he heard some people in the area saying the tablets resembled birth control pills so they would not allow their daughters to take them.
However because he attended a sensitisation workshop prior to the implementation of the GIFTS, he helped to educate his constituents and patronage was more encouraging.
FROM GODFRED BLAY GIBBAH, PRAMPRAM