The Star (Nairobi)

18 February 2013

Kenya On Track to Meet Breastfeeding Targets - Report

The country aims to increase breastfeeding from the current 32 per cent to 80 per cent by the year 2017. According to the report 'Superfood for Babies' shows that Kenya has continued to record an upward trend in both initiating breastfeeding within the first hour of birth and the rates of women breastfeeding their babies exclusively for the first six months.

The report estimates that only 37 per cent of children globally are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and only 43 per cent are breastfed within the first hour.

Save the Children said that if babies receive colostrum - the mother's first milk - within an hour of birth, it will kick start the child's immune system, making them three times more likely to survive. And if the mother continues breastfeeding for the next six months, then a child growing up in Kenya is up to 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea.

"We have made huge progress in curbing the rates of child mortality globally over the past 20 years, but despite the benefits of breast milk being widely known, lack of education for poorer mothers and inadequate support at birth means this natural cheap way of saving a baby's life is neglected," Assumpta Ndumi, Save the Children's Regional Nutrition Advisor said.

She identified lack of education for women, inappropriate marketing practices by some breast milk substitute companies, severe shortage of health workers and unfavorable working environment as the key barriers to breastfeeding in the country and the African continent at large.

Mrs. Terry Wefwafwa, Head of the Division of Nutrition at the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation said the report is a call to Kenyans to encourage breast feeding mothers.

"There is need for husbands, families, communities, employers and everyone to recognize the significant contribution that a woman is making to the future of her child, family, village and the country's economy by breast feeding her child," said Wefwafwa.

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