08.05.2005 Regional News

Help reduce child mortality through breastfeeding, mothers urged

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Asamankese (E/R), May 8, GNA- The National Co-ordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Committee, Mrs Goskia Alarbi, has stressed the need for lactating mothers to adopt the exclusive breastfeeding policy to reduce under-five mortality rate in the country. According to her, gains had been made in the past in the reduction of children who died before they were five years when the exclusive Breastfeeding Promotion Regulation(BPR) policy was introduced.

Mrs Alarbi stated that the latest report of the Ghana Demographic and Health Survey(GDHS), showed that the under-five mortality rate had gone up compared to the last ten years of the promotion of the breast feeding policy. According to her, the World Health Organization's (WHO) Demographic Health Survey(DHS), on Ghana showed that exclusive breast feeding for six months had the advantage to reduce under five mortality in children by thirteen per cent.

Mrs. Alarbi, who was speaking to the GNA after a five-day monitoring exercise by the Food and Drugs Board(FDB) in the Eastern Region, emphasised that exclusive breast feeding was the "surest way for reducing infant under five mortality and morbidity" and underscored the need for the Legislative Instrument(LI) on the policy to be enforced against the violation of the practice. According to the 2003 report on Ghana's infant and child mortality (under-five), 177 children in every 1000 live births died before five years while 84 died before one year, indicating a slowing down in the mortality rate compared to previous reports. Mrs. Alarbi said studies showed that for babies born to HIV-infected mothers, the use of niverapine drug combined with baby formulas to prevent mother-to-child transmission, could reduce child mortality to only two per cent of under-five mortality and morbidity while the use of insecticide-treated bed nets could reduce it by six per cent. Stressing the need for all violations of the BPR to be enforced, Mrs. Alarbi said, statistics showed that the infant mortality rate, which occurred in children under-one was also soaring because of the practice of mixed feeding with baby formulas.

"That aspect tells the relevance of exclusive breastfeeding in fighting mortality in children which has become a serious issue in the country," adding that it is therefore incumbent on all health stakeholders to see to it that exclusive breastfeeding was practiced, notwithstanding the challenges.

Mrs. Alarbi called for stringent measures in enforcing the ban on baby food companies to stop the promotion of the sale of their products to ensure that the exclusive breastfeeding was practiced. She was of the view that though, manufacturers could not be banned from production of such foods, the LI on the breastfeeding promotion frowned on the promotion of baby formulas in the premises of health facilities and the use of baby pictures on the products to entice mothers "to believe that those foods were safe for their consumption".

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