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25.08.2005 Health

Exclusive breastfeeding to be promoted


Ho, Aug 25, GNA - Stakeholders in child welfare from the Volta and Eastern regions met in Ho on Wednesday to evaluate strategies to improve child survival in the country.

Survey reports presented at the forum, which was under the aegis of the Ghana Sustainable Change Project (GSCP), indicated that malnutrition is the leading cause of Ghana's under-five deaths.

Nutritionists, Public Health nurses, staff of National Council on Women and Development, Department of Children under the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs and the media attended the forum that is part of activities to mark the 2005 World Breast Feeding Week. Discussions were based on research findings that showed that though breastfeeding newborns was a universal practice in Ghana, the knowledge base on breastfeeding and complementary feeding was weak and must be improved.

Dr Andrew Arde-Acquah, the Volta Regional Director of the Ghana Health Service, citing the current infant mortality rate of 64 per 1,000 live births and under-five mortality rate of 11 per 1,000 live births, said there were still some areas where "the initially-produced yellowish milk that provides the baby with its first immunization is discarded because they believe it is dirty".

Key nutrition facts in Ghana presented by GSCP says about half of women practice exclusive breastfeeding for six months. The studies therefore noted that the level of sub-optimal feeding, which causes deaths in children, was too high and must be tackled. Sub-optimal feeding is the failure to do exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the baby's life and failure to continue breastfeeding for two years and beyond whilst giving appropriate complementary foods.

Effects of this, coupled with vitamin A and iodine deficiency, according to the studies, are reasons for the unacceptable rates of stunted growth, anaemia among children in Ghana, the reversal of which is crucial to the attainment of Ghana's economic vision of a middle income nation by 2015.

Mr Edward Adimazoya, an official of the GSCP, said the project objective was to "build a cadre of breastfeeding advocates to promote breastfeeding and raise awareness about the cost of introducing other foods to baby's before they are six months.

Dr Timothy Letsa, acting Head of Public Health at the Volta Regional Directorate of the GHS, expressed concern about delays in translating research findings into policies.

The GSCP is a USAID funded Health Communication project committed to child survival in the seven southern regions of the country.