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.
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.
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 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 percent of newborns are breastfed within 1 hour of birth and 43 percent of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed. However, the target rates for 2030 are 70 percent for initiation in the first hour, 70 percent for exclusive breastfeeding, 80 percent at one year, and 60 percent at two years.
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.