GHS launches nutritional well-being of infants
A programme designed to promote the nutritional well-being of infants in the Upper West Region was on Wednesday launched by the Ghana Health Service (GHS) and stakeholders at Wa.
Christened “Start Right, Feed Right – From Birth to Two Years”, the eight months programme, with support from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), would, among other things, promote early introduction of babies to breast feeding after birth, and ensure exclusive breast feeding for the first six months of the infant’s life.
According to the Regional Director for Health Services, Dr Damian Punguyire, the campaign, which would be carried out in all the municipal and district assemblies across the region, would emphasise the importance of breast feeding to both mother and baby in order to sustain the practice.
He indicated that an infant who was introduced to the breast milk within the first one hour after birth, and maintained exclusively on the milk for the first six months of life, had a higher chance of becoming intelligent and nutritionally sufficient, adding that the mother was also protected from breast cancer, and in some cases early pregnancy after birth.
“To do this, we need baby-friendly initiative orientation for antennal and maternity staff, and educate mothers on good breast feeding practices with demonstrations in order to generate the interest, and support of stakeholders such the media, mothers and health staff,” he said.
Dr Punguyire also empahsised the need for a clean environment devoid of open faeces and filth that could cause harm to infants and toddlers, who were mostly left to explore the floor.
Shedding more light on the need for the campaign, the Acting Regional Deputy Director for Public Health, Dr Richard Wodah-Seme, said although the region was improving in terms of child nutrition, there was the need to speed up the process in order to meet the required global standard.
“Between 2011 and 2018, exclusive breast feeding, for instance, moved from 67 to 77.6 per cent, children who were underweight as a result of under-nutrition, reduced from 15 in 2011 to 9.5 in 2018, whereas wasting and stunting reduced from 9.2 and 23.1 to 5 and 14.6 per cent respectively,” he enumerated.
Dr Wodah-Semeh expressed that data showed that the region was performing better in terms of child nutrition, but needed to sustain the gains, and called on mothers not to renege on their responsibilities of providing complementary foods that were nutritious to their infants.
Launching the programme, the Regional Coordinating Director, Mr Gilbert Nuuri-Teng, lamented that malnutrition remained one of the developmental challenges that had affected health, academic performance, and sustainable development of some children in the region.
“In tackling malnutrition among children under five years, we need to ‘start right’ but attending antenatal care during pregnancies and giving birth in a health facility instead of home, and ‘feed right’ by introducing babies to breast milk within the first hour after birth and sustain the practice in nurturing the infant into toddlers,” he said.
He called on stakeholders such as the department of agriculture to continue promoting the production of local food to meet the nutritional needs of residents and urged the environmental health and sanitation agencies to step up its campaign against open defecation and other bad sanitation practices that posed danger to the health of Ghanaians, especially children.
From Musah Umar Farouq, Wa