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Ghanaian child, price of eggs and everything in between

The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members – Gandhi 

Some weeks back, Nigerian social media influencer ‘Maraji’, noted her cultural shock of Ghanaians’ love of eggs after relocating to Ghana.

“Ghanaians will eat eggs with everything”. Her observation amused me because as a Ghanaian, I knew this was true.

We, Ghanaians, really do love eggs; boiled or fried; or for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Unfortunately, the rising inflation rates in Ghana poses a risk not just to our access to delicious eggs, but could also jeopardise the health of our children and the nation.

The data confirm Maraji’s remark. Faostat estimates our annual national egg consumption per capita was 1.26 kg in 2019, up 26 per cent from the previous year.

Ghanaians love eggs. First, eggs are delicious, but more importantly, because they are the cheapest protein source available in Ghana. I know this because I track the price of eggs every week. I have done this not only in my capacities as a proud Ghanaian and egg fan, but also as a paediatrician.

In my practice, most patient household incomes fall below the national poverty line and undernutrition is one of the most common disorders I treat.

Survey

A 2018 national survey, led by the Bureau of Statistics and World Bank, found that seven per cent of Ghanaian children under the age of five are malnourished and about 18 per cent have stunted growth due to nutritional deficits.

One whole egg contains approximately six grams of protein and with just two eggs per day parents can meet their toddler’s daily protein requirements. As such, eggs are an invaluable tool in the Ghanaian healthcare worker’s armamentarium.

It is no surprise, therefore, that nutritionists, nurses, and paediatricians all across Ghana follow the poultry and egg sector closely. Our attention has peaked in the past few months as Ghana’s inflation rate has reached a record high 37.2 per cent.

Similarly, food product costs are up 36.8 per cent. For most Ghanaians these rising food costs mean increased poverty and malnutrition rates.

There has been significant coverage on the effects of inflation on economic sectors and the nation as a whole. However, the impact of inflation is disproportionate. In this case, it affects children of low-income households more than other demographics.

Despite our appreciation of children, as a vulnerable population, we have failed to prioritise them.

Associate

In Ghana, we associate children with their size and often relegate their interests on national agendas – their problems, like them, are considered small. Our future leaders are on the brink of a crisis and everyone is watching this unfold. While we may not see the effects right now, it will certainly be felt in the near future.

The consequences of poor nutrition extend beyond the physical and into the cognitive. Undernourished children have lower IQ scores than their well nourished counterparts. These pervasive effects may mean a bleak future for our future leaders and our nation. Hence, we must act now.

Our leaders must ensure that the most vulnerable in our society are being catered for. We must invest in school feeding programmes and prioritise children of low-income families. A national initiative like this one will put school boards in a better bargaining position. As a result, they will be able to secure lower prices and constant protein supplies for the undernourished.

Strategy

On the other hand, this strategy will be beneficial for our poultry sector, since it will provide perennial sources of cash flow.

International and national feeding programmes should identify children from low-income households and provide them with the necessary nutritional supplements. In addition, healthcare workers must be on the lookout for signs of malnutrition and act promptly to mitigate its effects. Collectively, we must save the best source of protein like meat and fish for the youngest and not for the head of the house.

Some may argue that our nation has competing priorities and cannot afford to spend on initiatives like the school nutrition programme. While this may be true, we must remember that we simply cannot afford to jeopardise our children’s future and that of our nation.

Every cedi spent to prevent undernutrition and its complications will lead to a productive workforce in the future that will create economic value and pay taxes.

Our leaders must also remember that they were once children and without proper nutrition and care, they would likely not be where they are today.

In summary, our children are our greatest asset and we would be doing ourselves and them a great disservice, if we do not protect them today. Our dear egg has become very dear in every sense of the word.

The writer is a Paediatric Oncology Fellow at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital/member, Paediatric Society of Ghana.

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