The First lady of the Republic of Ghana, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has called on all to take key steps to address the practical, economic and socio-cultural barriers that still stand in the way of women breastfeeding and work together to enable mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish to protect all babies from commercial interests.
The first lady said this during the virtual launch of this year's World Breastfeeding Week and under the theme "Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet".
"As we join the global public health community to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding, it is my desire that in Ghana we will make it part of our agenda to collectively revisit the breastfeeding situation in our country to give it the needed attention" she added.
Her Excellency, the First Lady said it was gratifying to note that in Ghana activities had been planned to go beyond a week-long advocacy to a year-long campaign that provides the opportunity for renewed efforts to take stock and reflect on pertinent reasons for the decreasing trends of initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding.
She finally called on all stakeholders including traditional leaders, health partners, health practitioners, the media and civil society at large to play their respective roles in re-establishing breastfeeding in Ghana as the cultural norm, thereby making it the natural choice for most mothers and providing the right support for breastfeeding to happen successfully and for as long as necessary.
In a statement read on behalf of the UN in Ghana, the Resident Coordinator, Mr Charles Abani, indicated that beyond the health benefits, breastfeeding had some economic benefits to families in a way that can help address disparities and inequities. For instance, the prevention of illnesses as a result of breastfeeding could enable families to reduce out of pocket expenditures to treat illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
"When a population with limited access to health systems and infrastructure relies on breastfeeding, it lessens inequities in access to health services", he added.
Mr Abani mentioned that despite the wonders of breastfeeding, research has shown that only half of Ghana's children (52 percent) are put to the breast in the first hour of life. In addition, sadly, exclusive breastfeeding rates for children less than six months are declining (43 percent).
"We need to tap into the benefits of breastfeeding and make it sustainable for the sake of our children. The benefits of breastmilk must therefore be championed by all - every policy maker, every health service provider, every employer, every business, every community, every family. To ensure that no child is left behind and deprived of breastfeeding, its promotion must be our shared vision and responsibility", he said.
The Government of Ghana with support of partners has taken the opportunity of the World Breastfeeding Week to launch a yearlong campaign deemed 'Start Right, Feed Right - from Birth to two years' The deputy minister for health, Honourable Tina Mensah in her address, said it was an honour for her to be part of the official launch of the campaign 'Start Right. Feed Right - from Birth to two years' during this year's World Breastfeeding Week.
Honourable Tina Mensah emphasized the need to update and enforce national legislation and restrictions to aggressive marketing of products that undermine breastfeeding, as this would protect mothers and children from the influx of harmful products. In this regard, she said the Ministry of Health and Partners would work assiduously to ensure public and private sector partnerships in Ghana to expand paid family leave and increase the number of workplace breastfeeding policies for all new mothers working in the formal and informal sectors.
"I also urge the Ghana Health Service to expedite actions in integrating key standards of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative with the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) credentialing process to ensure all health facilities are and remain baby friendly to every extent possible. I call on all stakeholders to come on board for these goals to be achieved. The Ministry of Health together with other Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) are ready to make this happen", she concluded.
The event was spiced with an advocacy video from the WHO and UNICEF Country Representatives; Dr Neema Rusibamayila Kimambo and Mrs Ann-Claire Dufay and recorded testimonials on the benefits of breastmilk from mothers all over the country.