“We know that by the 1000th day - that is nine months in the mother’s womb and two years on the surface of this earth, if you are not able to correct any nutritional deficit, you carry that deficit for the rest of your life”, he stressed.
Prof. Akosa said these when he chaired the launch of a report by the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, which is co-Chaired by former President John Agyekum Kufuor.
The Global Panel
The Global Panel is an independent group of influential experts with a commitment to tackling global challenges in food and nutrition security.
Its aim is to provide effective guidance to decision makers, especially governments, on generating nutrition-enhancing agricultural and food policy and investment in low and middle-income countries.
Impact of malnutrition
Quoting the report titled: “Food systems and diets: Facing the challenges of the 21st Century”, Prof. Akosa said; “Poor diet is now accepted as the single most important contributor to diseases in the world. It is greater than the combined effect of unsafe sex, the use of drugs and tobacco and, therefore, it becomes very important. Diet-related diseases are galore – the hypertensions, diabetes, the cancers and so many others.”
He also indicated “It is the food that builds the grey matter in your brain – that is what you use to think, so if that is compromised, your thinking ability is compromised, your ability to reason, your ability to even understand simple messages is compromised. As if that is not enough, your physical ability to work is also compromised.”
Prof. Akosa said 69 per cent of women in the productive age group were anaemic, which showed that, “We have a battle on our hands; we are in a nutritional crisis but this report has given us all we need to be able to sort out that problem.”
In her presentation of the highlights of the nutrition study, dubbed the Foresight Report, the Executive Director of the Global Panel, Prof. Sandy Thomas, said, “Despite global progress in reducing hunger and undernutrition in the past 25 years, today we have malnutrition in all its forms under nutrition, with obesity and overweight affecting all 192 countries of the world.”
She stated that malnutrition in all its forms affected one in three persons in the world, but if it was treated as business as usual, it would increase to one in two persons.
“If business continues as usual, there will be 216 million undernourished people in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030”, the report stated.
It also identifies chronic malnutrition as the underlying cause of approximately half of the child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015 and indicates that the number of stunted children under five years is rising by 500,000 every year.
While lauding Ghana for being one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to meet the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 1C on hunger and poverty reduction and also reducing stunting from more than 30 per cent to 18.8 per cent in 2015, the report expresses worry that undernutrition and hunger are still declining too slowly.
The Dean of the Nutrition and Food Science Department of the University of Ghana, Legon, Prof. Matilda Steiner-Asiedu, said Ghana was experiencing a double burden of malnutrition and obesity like other sub-Saharan African countries because people were either overindulging or not eating properly.
Call to action
The report lists 10 decisive actions that need to be taken by policy makers in Africa to change the narrative on global nutrition.
These include a focus of food and agriculture policies on securing diet quality for infants and young children, improving adolescent girl and adult women’s diet quality and making fruits, vegetables, pulses, nuts and seeds much more available, affordable and safe for all consumers.