The Central Regional Directorate of the Ghana Health Service (GHS) has launched a campaign in Cape Coast to scale-up awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding as part of activities to commemorate the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week.
The campaign, dubbed: “Start Right, Feed Right-from Birth to Two Years,” is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund, the major implementing partners, in collaboration with the GHS.
It seeks to raise awareness on the need for and the benefits of six months of exclusive breastfeeding and complementing that with other nutritious foods after six months until two years.
The campaign’s objective is to significantly increase early initiation of breastfeeding within an hour of birth from 52 to 80 per cent by 2025, increase exclusive breastfeeding at five months from 43 to 60 per cent by 2025 while increasing the percentage of children fed through the minimum acceptable diet from 13 to at least 30 per cent by 2025.
Dr Godfred Kwabena Sarpong, Deputy Central Regional Director of the GHS, who launched the campaign, said there was substantial evidence that exclusive breastfeeding for six months had many benefits for the infant and mother.
Scientific evidence, he indicated, had proven that early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth protected the newborn from acquiring infections and reduced premature mortality.
It also boosts their immune system, increased intellectual abilities while protecting mothers from some cancers, among other benefits, Dr Sarpong added.
He said the campaign was another opportunity to remind stakeholders that six months of exclusive breastfeeding was one of the best investments to save human lives and improve the health, social and economic well-being of individuals and nations.
Mrs Rachael Effe Asabo, the Regional Nutrition Officer, said it was important to take a more critical look at the breastfeeding situation in Ghana as the current 43 per cent rate of exclusive breastfeeding was a drop from the 63 per cent in 2008.
She underscored the need to improve current support systems for exclusive breastfeeding, especially by creating the enabling environment in the workplace, markets and all public places for women to breastfeed.
She said breastfeeding was undoubtedly one of nature’s most powerful life-saving gifts that provided antibodies to protect babies against many childhood illnesses and reduced the risk of maternal and child mortality.
“In the longer term, the magical ingredients of breastmilk prevent the risk of acquiring non-communicable diseases including childhood asthma, obesity, diabetes and heart related diseases,” she added.
The WHO has confirmed that breastmilk could help prevent the risk of the newborn getting infected with the new COVID-19, she said.
Mr Matthew Okor Ahwireng, the Regional Health Promotion Officer, urged health promoters to prioritise service delivery in combination to offering excellent health communication as the cornerstone to erasing the myths associated with exclusive breastfeeding.
He discredited misconceptions about exclusive breastfeeding including insufficient nutrition for the baby.