Health and Nutrition
Helping children survive and thrive
There has been slow progress in reducing under-five and maternal mortality due to the lack of special care needed by newborns, especially during the first 28 days of life.
About 70 babies lose their lives every day
This is mainly due to premature birth, infections and complications during and after delivery. In spite of the availability of skilled antenatal care and birth attendants at health facilities during delivery, newborn and maternal deaths remain high.
One child in every five in Ghana experiences stunted growth during the first thousand days of life caused by inadequate nourishment, frequent illness and an unhealthy environment. These affect the physical, social and cognitive development in children. Their brain development is negatively impacted which further affects learning at an early age, school performance and ultimately their socio-economic development.
In spite of the progress Ghana has made in ensuring children are immunized, many children, especially those who live in inner cities, dense parts of urban areas and some in hard-to-reach areas have not been vaccinated and are exposed to these diseases at an early age.
Limited knowledge of infant and young child feeding practices among caregivers remains a challenge in the country. This coupled with the lack of skills to prepare nutritious foods and the cost of certain foods, leads to poor diversity in the diets of infants and children.
Children in the second decade of life face health challenges as well. High level of anemia among girls is of particular concern because it is a leading cause of maternal mortality, low birth weight and premature birth. Nearly half of the adolescent girls in Ghana are anemic, making it a public health problem.
UNICEF has helped the Government of Ghana to develop a National Newborn Strategy and Action Plan and is working with partners to implement interventions that are working for the survival of newborns. These include the Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC), a low-cost but efficient technique where mothers wrap their premature babies to their chests with a piece of cloth. It is proven that close body contact with the mother helps stabilize a baby’s body temperature, steady heart rates, make breathing easier and is also conducive to breastfeeding.
With support from UNICEF Ghana, the Ghana Health Service Directorate has launched a ‘Healthy at Two’ initiative in the Volta Region, which involves community health nurses providing support to mothers from the time they register their pregnancy until after child birth, initiating breastfeeding within the first hour, providing newborn care, vaccination and post-natal check-up, and monitoring the growth of the child.
Sufficient, well-functioning and well-maintained cold chain equipment plays a vital role in the delivery of quality and accessible immunization services. Cold chain equipment will assume a more important role as large volumes of vaccines are needed for more people and as more expensive vaccines are introduced into routine immunization systems.