Ghana is doing well in the fight against hunger, but poorly in reducing hidden hunger which includes deficiencies in zinc, iron and vitamins.

This is one of the observations made by the Ghana Science Association (GSA) in its communique at the 17th Biennial Virtual Workshop on the theme: “Diet, Health and COVID-19”.

The Association wants a focus on reducing hidden hunger through public education on the need to consume more micronutrients – zinc, iron and vitamins.

More observations

Among the GSA’s observations area focus on major nutritional elements in our local foods as a sustainable means of improving nutritional status.

It believes solutions to all our nutritional needs are locally available both in our diet and environment.

Third, Ghana is well endowed with sunlight which is a continuous and abundantly free source of vitamin D as an immune boosting element.

The Association says immunity to secondary COVID-19 infection depends on innate immunity of the individual prior to first infection, which depends on the individual’s diet.

It encourages plant sources of nutrients with minimal intake of animal sources of nutrients.

For longer life expectancy, it encourages consumption of sea foods and fish.

COVID-19 has impacted on the healthcare delivery system by decreasing immunization frequency, services in emergency cases and total disruption of general services – 53% in partial/complete disruption, 49% in diabetes and related complications, 42% in cancer treatment and 31% for emergencies according to the WHO (2020).

It again observes, hospitalization and recovery form general ailments/clinical conditions are related to nutrition of the individual.

Efforts should be made towards nutritional education, ensuring that people can afford to eat well, and there should be prioritization of nutrition or dietetics at the point of healthcare delivery.

The association urges people to grow or cultivate what they eat particularly in backyard gardens (fresh fruits and vegetables).

And lastly, it observes people could enhance immunity by reducing intake of processed foods while consuming fruits and vegetables in season.

Outcomes

The GSA, through this workshop provided a platform for stakeholders, scientists and policy makers to interact and deliberate on the linkages between diet and health in the fight against COVID-19, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare delivery system of Ghana.

The Association also raised more awareness about various ways in which people can blend healthy lifestyles and food nutrients to boost their immunity against COVID-19 and other infections.

Last, it emphasized the need for policy to focus on production and consumption of locally available food varieties which have all the essential nutrients to boost immunity against general infections, and are healthier than most imported varieties

Recommendations

The Association recommended that policy makers and scientists should collaborate to push for an agenda of expanding local capacity to produce what we consume and lessen food importation.

It wants the healthcare system to be equipped with state-of-the-art technology to be able to deploy telemedicine in healthcare delivery.

The roles of all stakeholders in the prevention and fight against COVID-19 must be well established and thoroughly discussed at appropriate fora.

Scientific studies should be commissioned within Ghana to investigate and establish the roles of various factors in boosting immunity towards COVID-19.

It wants activation of the nutrition policy of Ghana and put into operation.

The Association recommends consistent and deliberate effort towards promoting what we produce while we work on food security and safety.

Food processing research should look at procedures that do not remove or reduce food nutrients.

Lifestyle and nutritional education should be incorporated in the healthcare delivery process.

Planting for food and jobs should consider specific varieties with good micronutrients like the orange maize.