HomeWORLDAFRICAGhana Launches National Breastfeeding Week

Ghana Launches National Breastfeeding Week

The World Health Organization, WHO has joined the Ministry of Health, the Ghana Health Service, and partners to launch the 2021 National Breastfeeding Week celebration under the theme, Protect Breastfeeding: A shared responsibility.

Ghana’s exclusive breastfeeding rate currently stands at 43 percent, representing a significant drop from 63 percent in 2008.

This year’s event will focus on raising awareness and galvanizing action on protecting breastfeeding to improve public health. The week-long celebration will be marked with a call on stakeholders to make investments and commitments to support actions aimed at reducing   malnutrition amongst newborns, infants, and young children in Ghana.

While addressing participants at the launch, Dr Patrick Kuma-Aboagye, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), emphasized the need for mothers to breastfeed their babies, adding that it remained central to survival, health, and well-being of women, children, and the nation at large.

Dr Kuma-Aboagye expressed worry about the gradual decline in exclusive breastfeeding and assured that the Ghana Health Service and the Ministry of Health were working closely with key health partners including, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF with a focus on informing people about the importance of protecting breastfeeding.

According to Dr Kuma-Aboagye, the significant decline could be attributed to poor traditional practices, which involved giving water and other homemade preparations to newborn babies and indiscriminate advertising of breastmilk substitutes, among others.

Ghana’s exclusive breastfeeding rate currently stands at 43 percent, representing a significant drop from 63 percent in 2008.

In a statement read on his behalf, Dr Francis Kasolo, the WHO Representative to Ghana, reminded policy workers, health workers, CEOs, parents, traditional leaders, and community members of their roles in promoting and protecting breastfeeding.

Dr Kasolo further referred to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), 2017/2018, which estimates that, in Ghana, 52% of newborns are breastfed within 1 hour of birth and 43% of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. However, the target rates for 2030 are 70% for initiation in the first hour, 70% for exclusive breastfeeding, 80% at one year, and 60% at two years.

Optimal breastfeeding practices: that is, early initiation within the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, and appropriate complementary feeding with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years or beyond – are among the most effective interventions to protect children from common causes of death, including complications from prematurity, newborn infections, pneumonia, and diarrhoea.

A statement presented by Ms Ruth Situma, Nutrition Specialist on behalf of UNICEF, recommended enforcement of national legislation and restricting aggressive marking of products that undermined breastfeeding, and further strengthen the consequences for violators.

WHO and UNICEF released a number of capacity-building tools for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) during the Global launch of World Breastfeeding Week in August 2021. These include a BFHI Competency Verification Toolkit for direct care providers, training of maternity staff in BFHI, and the care for small, sick, and pre-term babies. The tools can also help improve health workers’ skills and competencies to ensure universal access to skilled breastfeeding support.

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