Only 52 per cent of newborn babies in Ghana are exclusively breastfed from birth to six months while 56 per cent of babies are initiated to early breastfeeding within the first hour of birth.
Both figures for the former and the latter fall short of the national targets of 85 and 80 per cent respectively.
This was made known at a stakeholder, dissemination meeting on a ‘Breastfeeding Friendly Country Index (BFCI) project’ in Accra.
It was organised by the University of Ghana School of Public Health in conjunction with the Yale University with sponsorship from the Family Larsson Rosenquist Foundation, an independent charitable organisation based in Switzerland.
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Presently, the project is being piloted in Ghana and Mexico and is expected to be scaled up to six other countries by 2019.
The goal of the BFCI project is to develop an evidence-based metric that can help decision-makers to understand the current status of breastfeeding programmes.
It is also to provide step-by-step criteria and examples to guide decision-makers in scaling up breastfeeding programmes as well as identify concrete measures that a country can take to sustainably increase its breastfeeding rates.
Giving the breastfeeding situation in Ghana, a member of the BFCI project team, Dr Gifty Margaret Donkor, said the Ashanti and Northern regions were currently lagging behind in breastfeeding.
She said although the law on Breastfeeding Promotion Regulation (LI 1667) was being implemented nationwide, there was the need for more work to be done in the area of dissemination.
Dr Donkor said the country was also yet to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Maternity Convention 183, which gives a minimum of 14 weeks paid maternity leave to mothers.
She bemoaned the low exclusive breastfeeding rates in the country, noting that there was inadequate investment in scaling up operations at all levels.
The Project Coordinator of BFCI in Ghana, Dr Richard Aryeetey, in a presentation on ‘Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly’ (BBF),’ said the process did not only assess measures, but also supported countries to scale up breastfeeding programmes through step-by-step criteria.
He said key recommendations under the BBF were for the country to strengthen breastfeeding advocacy efforts as well as empower potential promoters.
The coordinators further called for the strengthening of breastfeeding monitoring and reporting and also maintaining surveillance of trained personnel and training activities, among other activities.
The project’s lead researcher, Professor Rafael Pyrenes-Escamilla of the Yale University, said breastfeeding was one of the most cost-effective maternal-child-nutrition interventions ever documented, given the many benefits.
A panel of discussants called for more commitment on the part of the government to ensure that breastfeeding was included in the national agenda.