Story: Zainabu Issah
The Director of Family Life Division of the Ghana Health Service (GHS), Dr (Mrs) Gloria Quansah-Asare, has advised mothers to make conscious efforts to start breastfeeding their babies within the first hour of birth to help reduce their infants risk of death.
She said a research conducted on babies who survived the first day clearly showed that 41 per cent of all babies who die during two (2) to 28 days of life can be saved by this simple intervention.
She explained that initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth was a vital step in reducing the infant’s risk of death.
Dr (Mrs) Quansah-Asare was speaking at the launch of the World Breastfeeding week celebration in Accra on the theme “ Breastfeeding, just 10 steps: The baby friendly way”.
She said the study which was conducted from rural communities in the country involving 10,947 infants had shown that the initiation of breast feeding within the first hour of birth can prevent one million out of four million new-born deaths.
She said the week was also to celebrate 20 years of the Innocenti Declaration on the protecting, promoting and support of breastfeeding, adopted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 1990 to promote successful breastfeeding and Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
She explained that to enhance the implementation of the declaration, WHO and UNICEF had put in place 10 basic steps to be promoted by health facilities globally.
In a speech read on his behalf, the Minister of Health, Dr Benjamin Kunbour, called on all health care providers as well as community members to encourage and support mothers to breastfeed successfully.
He also called for the revitalisation of the baby friendly hospital initiative in the country which would lead to the achievement of the ”gold standard” aimed at promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continue with appropriate complimentary foods until the baby was two years old or more.
He encouraged health workers to display their professional skills to encourage the attendance of mothers to health facilities to help reduce maternal mortality.
He congratulated the 37 Military Hospital for being the leading baby friendly health hospital and for maintaining the standards for 15 years since it was initiated.
A Nutrition Specialist of UNICEF, Dr Ernestina Agyepong, said the Innocenti Declaration proposed that a national breastfeeding co-ordinator and authority be appointed, all maternity facilities practice all the ten steps and that a legal instrument is developed to protect the breastfeeding rights of mothers which was to be enforced through the code of marketing of breast milk substitute and maternity protection laws globally.