Student - 26 september 2013

Nutrition advice in Ghana

Who? Kim van der Molen, MSc student of Nutrition and Health
What? Internship at a nutrition centre
Where? Gushegu in northern Ghana

‘I did an internship at a nutrition centre that works to fight undernutrition among Ghanaian children. Child undernutrition is a problem in northern Ghana, but not because there is not enough food. It has more to do with the local eating habits and the ignorance of many young mothers. It is commonly believed, for example, that eggs are not good for children, whereas they contain proteins which are exactly what children need.
The nutrition centre invited mothers of undernourished children to stay a couple of weeks. The children then received healthy food while the mothers were taught about a healthy diet and hygiene. My task was to evaluate the work of the nutrition centre. To do that I also needed to make home visits. They found it difficult to put what they had learned into practice at home. Because they could not get hold of the same cleaning materials, for instance, or because someone else (a mother or a mother-in-law) was in charge.
Ghanaians are extremely nice, helpful people, but as a white person you are always something of a spectacle. Whenever I cycled past a primary school in the morning, the kids always sang the same song in the only English they know: “Siliminga (which means white person), how are you, I’m fine thank you!” I had about 30 marriage proposals too, sometimes from total strangers who just addressed me on the street. There weren’t any really good marriage candidates among them (mainly because they were all 40 or 50 years old) so I just thanked them politely.

One special event during my stay was my namegiving ceremony. This is a festive occasion at which a newborn child is given its religious name at the church or the mosque. I was actively involved in the local church, which was why a ceremony was organized for me as well. The women at the nutrition centre thought of a Ghanaian name for me: Maltiti. Which means ‘she who comes to help’.’