The World Bank Group has urged government to increase efforts in dealing with stunting in children to save them from long-lasting negative consequences associated with the condition.
Stunting is associated with premature death, greater risk for illness, poor brain development, low intelligent quotient, lower income and metabolic syndrome later in life among others.
Madam Tomomi Tanaka, a Senior Economist at the World Bank, presenting the World Bank report on Human Capital Index (HCI) on Friday said, although Ghana had made significant progress in addressing stunting among children, there was the need to address disparities across regions and between children in rich and poor households.
She said the reports revealed that in 2014, there were wide gaps in stunting across regions and income groups. For instance, while stunting rate was 12.4 per cent (lowest) in Greater Accra, it was 33.2 per cent (highest) in the Northern Region.
She said the report also showed that stunting among children in richest homes was 7.9 per cent while it was 25 per cent in poorest households and therefore the need to address the differences.
Madam Tanaka said there was a need for policymakers to understand that the determinants of stunting were critical for designing effective policies and setting policy priorities.
She said potential determinants of stunting included the level adequacy in the care given to children, feeding practice as well as water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), adding that, access to health and health insurance also contributed to the stunting of children.
She said programmes aimed at creating quality jobs and increasing opportunities for income generation among the poor were critical for the implementation and urged the Government to put more efforts into that.
Touching on early childhood development, the Senior Economist said there was the need for a conscious effort to boost the cognitive development (literacy and numeracy) of children under five years.
She said cognitive development had a substantial impact on various outcomes in later life, such as skills development, academic achievement, health and income.
She said to fill the existing gap of cognitive development between poor and rich children as well as poor and rich regions, the government ought to design effective policy interventions aimed at promoting pre-school enrolment in poor regions and improving the quality of pre-school among others.
Mr Henry Kerali, the World Bank Country Director, said the World Bank had developed the HCI to measure the consequences of the failure to invest in human capital in terms of lost productivity of the next generation of workers.
He said the government in pursuit of economic growth, usually through investing in physical capital such as new roads, bridges, and other infrastructure, there was the need to invest in human capital, which is the sum total of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience and habits.
Mr Kerali said neglecting investments in human capital could dramatically weaken a country’s competitiveness in a rapidly changing world, one in which economies need ever-increasing amounts of talents to sustain growth.