Guyana's nutrition situation under focus at workshop

Guyana Chronicle
May 15, 2003

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A THREE-DAY food and nutrition workshop addressing the nutrition situation in Guyana, was on Tuesday launched at Hotel Tower, Georgetown.

The workshop, sponsored and coordinated by the Ministry of Health's Food Policy Division, in collaboration with the Caribbean Food and Nutrition Institute (CFNI), an arm of the Pan American Health Organization is being held under the theme: "The Food and Nutrition situation in Guyana: from Research to Policy and Programming."

The objectives of the workshop are to:

** present findings of studies on the food and nutrition situation in Guyana

** discuss implications of the findings of these studies for policy and programme development, and

** develop strategic approaches for improving the food and nutrition situation in Guyana.

Of concern to local health officials is the prevalence of anemia (iron deficiency) in the Guyanese society.

Minister of Health, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy who addressed the forum on the opening day said that iron deficiency continues to be a major problem with women who fall within the reproductive age.

The Minister said that his ministry plans to provide supplements to the women.

He further noted that decision making must be integral in the design of effective nutritional policies and stressed that the diet of children should be carefully examined.

Ramsammy noted that the intake of a large quantity of food does not necessarily produce a healthy child. Rather, it is a balanced diet that determines what the child's health status is, he said.

He noted that, more often than not, good nutrition entails good eating habits, adding that malnutrition, in many cases, could be prevented, since too many people with adequate access to food, fall into the malnutrition bracket.

On the other hand, he made the point that obesity should not be ignored.

The minister was, however, of the view that there is need to find ways of constructing programmes to produce optimal nutritional values.

Meanwhile, Director of CFNI, Dr. Fitzroy Henry, said his group has been working on the nutritional status of Guyanese with the Food Policy Unit of the Ministry of Health for more than three years.

He said that after examining the different age groups the overall findings have improved but there remain outstanding and significant nutritional problems in Guyana.

Henry said that 10 per cent of children under the age of five are significantly malnourished.

He singled out clinics and nursery schools as possible vehicles of change for this age group.

Henry added that correcting nutrition is not entirely the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.

He said that the Ministry of Agriculture which ensures that the right amount of greens, vegetables and fruits are available; the Ministry of Trade which ensures the right foods are imported, and the individual who ensures that he eats well, are all responsible for good nutrition of the individual.

A 1999-2003 survey has indicated that a number of important foods and nutrition related problems and issues have to be urgently addressed.

The workshop provides a forum for participants to discuss ideas and make suggestions for developing a more collaborative approach to improving the health and nutrition of all sections of the population.

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