In 2017, a staggering 5.4 million children under five years died around the world– many from preventable causes. Though strides have been made in Ghana, 25 newborns Ghanaian babies die for every 1,000 live births. From October 30- November 1, 2018, 115 newborn and child health experts gathered in Accra to discuss practical solutions to persistent nutrition, newborn, and child health challenges at the Conference on Improving Nutrition Services in the Care of the Ill and Vulnerable Newborn and Child.
At the launch of the event, Ghana’s Minister of Health, the Honorable Kwaku Agyemang-Manu; USAID/Ghana Acting Mission Director, Mr. Steven Hendrix; and representatives from the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO), emphasized the importance of addressing nutrition, newborn, and child health.
Forty-five percent of mortality rates in children under five years of age are attributed to malnutrition, meaning that these children could have survived if they had been sufficiently nourished. Those who survive still face recurrent infections, impaired physical growth and cognitive development, and poor learning outcomes. Deficits in development during the first 1,000 days of life—a critical window for development from the mother’s pregnancy to the child’s second birthday—can cost a person up to 63% of annual wages later in life.
Mr. Hendrix noted that, “Strong child health and nutrition programs are essential to reach the ambitious 2030 Sustainable Development Goals related to child health […] Not only will these save lives, but they will also have far reaching effects on socio-economic growth and development of countries as they embark on their journey to self-reliance.” The international conference organized by USAID, UNICEF, and WHO identified key barriers and opportunities for strengthening nutrition services delivered to children under five. Stakeholders from 12 countries gathered to translate evidence-based best practices into achievable country action plans.
USAID supports nutrition, newborn, and child health in Ghana, including training health workers; post-training mentoring; and supportive supervision. This support aligns with USAID’s cross-sectoral approach to address nutrition, agriculture, water, hygiene, and sanitation. USAID collaborates closely with the Government of Ghana to roll out high-impact nutrition and newborn interventions– including identification, referral, and management of acute malnutrition; easy-to-apply antibiotics to reduce sepsis; timely administration of treatment for pre-term birth; initiation of breastfeeding at birth; and the correct practice of Kangaroo Mother Care.
The recent visit by First Lady of the United States Melania Trump and First Lady of Ghana Rebecca Akufo-Addo to the Greater Accra Regional Hospital exemplifies this close collaboration to save and improve the lives of mothers and babies in Ghana.