World Food Day 2019 flag-raising ceremony

Below is the full statement by the WFP Ghana Representative and Country Director, Ms Rukia Yacoub

It is my pleasure to participate in yet another World Food Day Observance under the theme Our Actions, Our Future: Healthy Diets for A Zero Hunger World.

In our quest to achieve Zero Hunger in Ghana, most of us in the food security sector have focused attention on food production in order to ensure that no-one goes to bed hungry. We have also invested a lot into improving the lives our smallholder farmers. I must commend the Government and the Honourable Ministers of Food and Agriculture, and Fisheries and Aquaculture, for their tireless efforts and successful flagship programmes which have yielded positive results.

The theme for World Food Day 2019 turns our attention to other aspects of the Zero Hunger goal which need as much attention and effort as food production and hunger reduction. This is the area of nutrition, healthy and sustainable diets. 

Ghana is one of the African countries which is faced with the triple burden of malnutrition, that is, the coexistence of stunting, micronutrient deficiencies, overweight and obesity. While stunting has been reducing over the years, 18 percent of children are still affected. The level of micronutrient deficiencies is of high public health concern. Anaemia among children, adolescents and women of reproductive age ranges from 66 percent for children under five years, to 48 percent for adolescent girls. More critically, only 13 percent of children under two are reported to receive the minimum acceptable diet.

As a country, we need to put nutrition at the top of our agenda; addressing and preventing malnutrition through healthy diets is the best option. I have been in Ghana for over two years and over this period, I have noticed the minimal consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. Some people only eat fruits when they are ill and the excuses for not eating vegetables range from unsafe production methods to outright dislike and high prices. Among the middle class and urban populace, the growing consumption of fast foods, is not promoting healthy eating.

So how can we contribute our quota to promote healthy diets and eat healthily ourselves? The drama by the children from La Bethel Primary School provides a list of suggestions on what we can do as individuals, institutions, and policy makers.

Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, in Ghana, WFP is supporting the Ghana Health Service to conduct social and behaviour change communication in the Northern, Savannah and Ashanti regions. During the child welfare sessions, women and caretakers are taught about the nutritional benefits of local foods. They are taught how to cook without destroying the nutrients and encouraged to grow green leafy vegetables for consumption.

In collaboration with the Women in Agriculture Department of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, we have established orange-fleshed sweet potato nurseries to help address Vitamin A deficiency which is still a challenge in the country.

At this point, kindly permit me to digress a bit. I would like to use this occasion to congratulate our hardworking, resilient and enterprising rural women such as the Kichtowale Women’s Group in Kiape community in the Upper West Region. They worked assiduously to cultivate this crop to improve the nutrition of their families as well as sell them.  These women have grown their business capital from selling orange-fleshed sweet potatoes. I congratulate them on their business acumen which has enabled them get that far.     

Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we need a healthy population to develop Ghana into the successful self-reliant country it aspires to become. Let’s redouble our efforts to achieve Zero Hunger as well as the other Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.  

Thank you for your kind attention.

Speech by
Rukia Yacoub
WFP Representative
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Fund for Agricultural Development
World Food Programme