28 February 2013

Africa: Breastfeeding Prevents Child's Death

Save the Children International has launched its latest global breastfeeding report title "Super food for babies".

The report was launched on February 18, 2013 in the United Kingdom and Geneva. The report highlights how barriers could be overcome to save the lives of children.

According to the report, Save the Children described breast milk as the best food for babies, claiming that it provides colostrums.

Colostrums is the yellowish breast milk a mother produces right after child birth which strengthens the immune system of babies to fight childhood killer diseases.

The report calls for exclusive breastfeeding from the first hour of life to six months because Save the Children believe that doing so could save 95 newborn lives per hour worldwide.

This means an estimated 830,000 child deaths could be avoided yearly if all newborns are breastfed.

The research made use of the Demographic Health Surveys of 44 countries with terrible child death records. Most of these countries are in East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Barriers to breastfeeding the report mentioned include cultural practices, shortages of trained health workers, lack of maternity legislation and bad corporate practices.

Save the Children wants donors to increase support to nutrition programs and asked governments in developing countries to overcome harmful practices and breastfeeding taboos by funding projects that promote breastfeeding at the community and national levels.

The report also calls on governments to make their health systems stronger to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. This, the report said, should include the provision of adequate funding to long term health worker training, recruitment, support and retention.

The report compiled by the charity group further recommends that governments should introduce national breastfeeding-friendly policies and legislations in line with the International Labor Organization (ILO's) recommendation of 14 weeks paid leave.

Save the Children called on employers to make provisions for breast feeding women in places of work.

Though it is not clear whether Liberia has any law in place to protect breastfeeding mothers in the formal and informal sectors, the country has adopted some provisions of the International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes.

The codes are aimed at protecting and promoting breastfeeding by ensuring appropriate marketing and distribution of breast-milk substitutes in the country.

The Liberia Food Security Survey conducted in 2010 says although exclusive breastfeeding is up to 80% in the first two months, the number drops quickly to less than half around the third month and only 44% of newborns were breastfed in the first hour.

The report also attributes 10% of the disease burden in children under five years of age in Liberia to non-exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life. This means exclusive breastfeeding is only done during the first two-three months of life and complimentary foods are introduced before newborns are six months old.

The Breastfeeding report is the next phase of Save the Children's ambitious Every One Campaign launched in 2009 to stop children under five years of age from dying of preventable causes. It is geared at achieving Millennium Development Goal number four which seeks to reduce child deaths in children under five years by two-thirds by 2015.

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