By; Mensah Richard Adonu.
In a decade ago, world leaders converge to discuss and find a concerted solutions to world problems ,which ,maternal and child health related issues and poverty featured prominently. And at the end, they came up with a policy to guide adopted by United Nation, christened, ” Millennium Development Goals”,this was to help improve the standard of living and worth of life amongst countries, especially poor and developing countries ,which Ghana was no exception.
Though some gains have been made , a lot more work has remained and ought to have done and this brings birth to another improved and 17 goals adopted by United Nation and referred to as ” Sustainable Development Goals” ( SDG), which is to be achieved by 2030. Accordingly , poverty ,zero hunger and improved health in children especially, under 5 and mothers in Ghana which have improved over the past ten years is expected to see further significant improvements. Malaria is the leading cause of death for children under five, and malnutrition is a significant indirect cause of child mortality. Poor nutrition in Northern Ghana. Thus, maternal and child health remain critical issue , and SDG 3 is clear on the road for the attainment of ” Good Health and General well-being related goals.
But for substantial gain to be made , SDGs 1& 2 cannot be relegated to the background.
This is because ,a chunk of Ghana’s population is made up of rural dwellers .So achieving a state of “No Poverty and Zero Hunger” as proposed by the SDGs would in a long way be a booster to achieving a state of better infant and maternal nutrition.
According to data from United Nations,extreme poverty has been cut by more than half since 1990 but still,more than 1 in 5 people live on less than the targeted figure of $1.25 per day.
By description, people live in poverty ,if they lack basic services such as health care ,education, hunger ,social discrimination and exclusion from decision making.
Ending hunger,achieving food security and improved nutrition and promotion of sustainable agriculture is imperative in advancing the course of nutrition and well being.
According to UN,Globally, 1 in 9 people are undernourished, vast majority of these people live in developing countries such Ghana. Poor nutrition causes nearly 45% of deaths in children under 5, representing ( 3.1 million children each year)
A report by Ghana Health Service indicates that only 52 percent of Ghanaian mothers exclusively breastfeed their children suggesting “that a large number of Ghanaian babies are deprived of the major nutritional, health and psychological benefits of breastfeeding.”
Breastfeeding during the first 6 months of birth helps the baby grow healthy not only does it help the baby it goes a long way to benefit the mother , serves as natural family planning method ( Lactational Amenorrhea) ,and by an extension the country according to an article by “WebMD Medical , Mayo clinic and Obstetric and Gynaecology manual by Sylvia Verrals “ Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help you lose pregnancy weight faster. It releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. It may lower risk of osteoporosis by maintenance of estrogen, too.
Also Breast milk provides the ideal or perfect nutrition for infants and the need amount of water ,thereby preventing constipation . It has a nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein, and fat , antibodies and water — everything the baby needs to grow. And it’s all provided in a form more easily digested than infant formula. Breast milk contains antibodies that help your baby fight off viruses and bacteria. Breastfeeding lowers the baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies.
According to research, babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months, without any formula, have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and bouts of diarrhea. They also have fewer hospitalizations and trips to the doctor”.
Interestingly, “Breastfeeding has been linked to higher IQ scores in later childhood in some studies.
Psychologically, What’s more is the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact all help the baby bond with mother and feel secure. Breastfed infants are more likely to gain the right amount of weight as they grow rather than become overweight children”.
But here in Ghana according to the Labour Act -2003(ACT 651) “(1) A woman worker, on production of a medical certificate issued by a medical practitioner or a midwife indicating the expected date of her confinement, is entitled to a period of maternity leave of ” twelve weeks” in addition to any period of annual leave she is entitled after her period of confinement”. And the maternity leave can only be extended if it is medically certified by a medical practitioner that the women is not fit to return to work. So after these twelve weeks which is not up to the complete six months of exclusive breast feeding the baby lacks the comfort and the skin-to-skin touching of the mother.
Even though the maternity leave varies from country to country across the globe, Bulgaria came first with 59 weeks of paid leave for maternity, it would be quit essential for mothers in Ghana to also be given the full six months of maternity leave to help nurture their babies in a healthy way to eradicate the critical nature of maternal and child mortality to raise strong, healthy and intelligent babies in Ghana ,who have been repeatedly referred to as ” future leaders “.
The Sustainable Development Goals which is a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity should also ensure mothers are given the full 6 months of maternity leave to care for their newly borns.
This when done ,would go along way in reducing poor performance in schools,health bills of parents as well as the country.
Ghana must wake up now.