Health Ministry to launch US$5M nutrition programme

Stabroek News
January 7, 2003

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The Ministry of Health’s Nutrition Programme is set to gain an additional component.

According to a release from the Government Information Agency, the Ministry will be providing vouchers and possibly food items to mothers and relatives of children aged 6-24 months, since the ministry is encouraging absolute breast-feeding from birth to six months old. The breast-feeding campaign recently underwent a vigorous re-launching by the ministry.

According to the release, Minister of Health Dr Leslie Ramsammy stated that the programme would be funded from a US$5M loan from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), to be executed over the next four years. According to Ramsammy, since requirements have already been met and the necessary mechanisms installed, it is expected that the loan will be disbursed early this year.

The release stated that the additional element would be solely focused on children’s health since pregnant women will be included. Health Centres will be providing haemoglobin tests, and will also be teaching about obesity and other nutrition related illnesses during antenatal clinics. According to Ramsammy, once the transition is being made from breast-feeding to food, parents and caregivers “often make the wrong choices of food for that child”. Ramsammy said that the programme will not only help them to make the right choice, but will also help them if they cannot afford it.

Ramsammy further stated that, unlike other independently funded programmes, this one would not be concluded at the end of the four-year period covered by the loan. Rather Government will be taking responsibility for financing its continuation.

GINA stated that the health sector has been burdened with nutrition related problems that could be prevented with healthy eating habits. This new component is described as “an attempt to complement existing programmes such as the anti-obesity campaign, the breast-feeding campaign and other programmes being executed by the Food and Nutrition Department at the Ministry of Health and in the long term to see a reduction in poor nutrition illness, especially malnutrition”. According to GINA, progress has been made in the health sector under the management of the present administration, with indicators showing fewer mothers and infants dying, more immunization of children and fewer malnourished children.

The release stated further that as a result of increased spending and other developments undertaken by government, the infant mortality rate has decreased from 48 per 1,000 live births in 1992 to 24 per 1,000 live births in 2001. The maternal mortality rate, which had reached 34 per 10,000 deliveries, has been reduced to 11 according to statistics for 2001. It was further stated that more than 90 percent of children countrywide have been immunized and the menu of vaccines has been expanded to offer yellow fever, hepatitis B and influenza vaccines, among others. It is described as being “the largest menu of vaccines being offered in the Americas.”

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