An exclusive breastfeeding campaign dubbed: “start right, feed right from birth to two years” has been launched in the Kwahu West Municipal capital, Nkawkaw, in the Eastern Region to promote the healthy development of children.
The launch was in furtherance of the annual World Breastfeeding Week celebration, a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanise actions to advance optimal breastfeeding for infants.
The Ghana Health Service (GHS) unveiled the year-long campaign last year to affirm Ghana’s commitment to achieving the internationally agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Dr Winfred Ofosu, Eastern Regional Director of GHS, said breastfeeding was strongly recommended as the perfect food for all infants in this covid-19 era, and therefore called for concerted efforts to upscale the practice.
According to the 2017 multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, early initiation of breastfeeding was least practised in the Region, which indicated that only about six out of ten children aged 0-6 months were exclusively breastfed.
It also showed that only 25 per cent of children aged 6-23 months were fed food from, at least, five out of eight food groups recommended as complementary feeding for children at that level.
He said breastfeeding was identified as critical in all interventions that promoted the survival, growth and development of children.
Dr Ofosu, therefore, called for the need to raise awareness and generate demand for such interventions, adding, “Though efforts to reduce mortalities among children have chalked successes, the inability of most children to accomplish full growth potential is still an issue of public health concern.”
He said all children are born alike, irrespective of their geographical location, but the equal opportunity they had for survival, growth and development was breastfeeding.
He appealed to stakeholders to ensure that no mother failed to do so in the interest of the baby’s development in life.
He described breastfeeding as an age-long practise that had remained the common, natural and effective way to give newborns and infants the equal opportunity to be breastfed exclusively during the first six months of life and continue until two years.
Dr Ofosu explained that the situation where only 25 per cent of children between 6-23 months were fed properly could affect health growth outcomes and result in stunting and other forms of malnutrition.
He added that nutrition counselling was a cost-effective approach for empowering mothers and caregivers to adopt the recommended infant feeding and care practices.
However, most mothers often undermine the efforts of the health staff to interact with them.
Thus, the Director called for the involvement of men in this role to secure children from the burden of future health challenges.
Ms Rhodalyn Adda, Eastern Regional Nutrition Officer, said the first two years of a child’s life were exceptionally significant as optimal nutrition during the period lowered morbidity and mortality, reduced the risk of chronic diseases such as heart diseases, diabetes and many others in later years of life.
To improve the breastfeeding rate in the region, she said, social behavioural change communication had been instituted at the district and community levels to engage people on the benefits of breastfeeding.
She noted that stereotypes, myth and misconceptions had been a huge barrier to exclusive breastfeeding in the Eastern Region.
Adding, leave period for nursing mothers to stay home and continue with exclusive breastfeeding for the stipulated six months period was also inadequate.