The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF-Ghana, has embarked on a mission to conduct a programme visit of the Ghana-UNICEF Programme’s interventions in adolescent girls’ empowerment dubbed ‘Better Life for Girls’ in the Krachi East Municipality of the Northern Volta Region of Ghana
Supported by the Korea International Cooperation Agency, KOICA, and UNICEF, one of the programmes visited was the Girls Iron-Folate Tablet Supplementation (GIFTS) programme which is aimed at providing Iron Folic Acid (IFA) tablets containing 60mg of elemental Iron and 400µg (0.4mg) of Folic Acid to adolescent girls of the Krachie East area to be taken once a week after meals.
According to the Country Director of UNICEF, Anne-Claire Dufay, the visit served as a platform to understand the broader implementation context and exchange with municipality level stakeholders. She said the tablet is only a supplement to top-up the nutrients received from various foods.
Implementation of the GIFTS programme comes as a result of research conducted by the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey, which indicated that nearly 48% of adolescent girls between ages 15-19 years were anaemic – and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) threshold, any figure above 40% is of public health concern.
In all, 112 people comprising health staff and teachers from 21 health facilities and 44 schools respectively were trained by UNICEF-KOICA to implement the GIFTS programme. District-wide implementation began in September 2017, after the training.
The programme was targeted to provide 3,747 adolescent girls in and out of school with IFA supplements for the last quarter of 2017; and 7,685 adolescent girls were also targeted for the first half of 2018.
In an interview with the B&FT, Nutrition Officer of the Krachi East Municipal Solomon Konja said for the last quarter of 2017, 566 adolescent girls out of school registered and got screened for implementation of the GIFTS programme; however, only 398 and 135 took the supplements for the second and third time respectively.
He noted that all 44 schools in the district are beneficiaries of the GIFTS programme. He said out of a total of 2,893 girls in all 44 schools, 2,690 of them – representing 93 percent – registered and got screened…of which only one of them was reported to be anaemic.
He noted that the dwindling numbers is due to the fact that some adolescent girls, including their parents and guardians, perceive IFA as a family-planning pill. He was quick to debunk this notion and emphasised that the tablet is solely for iron and folic acid nutrients supplementation and is not a family-planning method.
According to him, they have been able to carry out 74 health and nutrition education initiatives, even though the initial plan was to conduct 101. He said challenges such as poor road networks for accessibility as well as inadequate sources of transportation for health educators accounted for this.
Mr. Solomon Konja said: “For the first half of 2018, a total of 2,350 girls in school out of 2,375 of them registered and got screened, and none of them was reported to be anaemic. We were able to also get 509 of girls who are not in school to register and get screened, and we planned 136 health education initiatives; however, we were able to carry out only 109 due to the challenges we faced”.
He advised that there is a need for continuous education of adolescent girls on the GIFTS programme, because some of them have a change of mind after hearing one or two myths from their peers.