Christian K. Adokoh

The festival for the 2009 World Breastfeeding Week which took place from August 12 2009 in Wale wale (Northern Region of Ghana), was a seven-day program devoted to encouraging mothers to early and exclusively breastfeed their babies so as to promote child health, growth and development.The festival also highlighted the strides the LINKAGES project ( has made in increasing Ghana’s exclusive breastfeeding rates: the most recent report indicates that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Ghana increased from 68% in 2000 to 79% in 2003. The project identified several common problems: throwing away colostrum, the highly nutritious first milk a mother produces, was a common practice in Ghana. Also, many mothers gave their infants water to drink in addition to their breast milk: this is particularly dangerous because of the many possible waterborne diseases in the area. Networking in the area was crucial to make the program a success by reaching as many people in as many different ways; in its turn, this was achieved by finding a whole host of different partners such as non-governmental organizations, Ghana Red Cross Society and local radio stations to define the overall communications strategy. Participants wanted the tone of all materials to be emotional, encouraging, and positive. They turned the messages into informative and creative materials -drama, songs, stories, radio spots, story cards, and counselling cards- and learned how to test the messages and materials in focus group discussions. Local artists who attended the workshop prepared draft illustrations for the counselling cards and flip charts. Community members and workshop participants served as models for photographs taken with disposable cameras. The communication strategy identified the following channels for delivering the messages: print, song, theatre, radio, home visits, group meetings, and village festivals. At the end of the workshop, participants had their creative briefs and copies of materials tailored to appeal to audiences in northern Ghana and to address specific child feeding problems in the region. Specific examples of creative brief were:

– “You are wise” Grandmothers were praised,
– “You can learn and be a custodian of good breastfeeding practices” Mothers were encouraged to put the baby to the breast immediately and to give only breast milk for six months; they were helped in position their babies correctly so that they can suckle well and get all the nourishment they need to grow strong and healthy,
– Grandmothers appealed to support good breastfeeding because they desire strong, healthy grandchildren.
Participants volunteered to test such materials in their communities where 53% of mothers, 39% of grandmothers and 37% of fathers reported having been exposed to Ghana Health Service/LINKAGES print materials on breastfeeding or child feeding. Radio listening is very high in the partner districts, with 75% of mothers, 72% of grandmothers, and 88% of fathers stating that they listen to the radio. Of radio listeners, 96% of mothers, 97% of grandmothers, and 99% of fathers reported that they had heard messages on breastfeeding or child feeding (
LINKAGES created a pre-service program for instructors at 51 different training institutions in all ten regions of the country to sustain the application of the most up-to-date and practical information available on infant and young child feeding in the future. Participation from the government leaders was also critical in ensuring the continued success of the program as well.

First input:

25 January 2010

Christian K. Adokoh

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