Prioritize Breastfeeding Support Policies To Help Vulnerable Families, UNICEF Enjoins Govts



Countries have been tasked to prioritize investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure and emergency settings.

United Nations Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) Executive Director, Catherine Russell, and World Health Organisation’s Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhhanon Ghebreyesus, made the call on the occasion of year 2022 Breastfeeding Week.

The theme of this year’s Breastfeeding Week is “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support.”

UNICEF and WHO called on governments to allocate increased resources to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programmes, especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency settings.  

“During emergencies, including those in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious and accessible food source for babies and young children. It offers a powerful line of defense against disease and all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting.

“Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses.

“Yet the emotional distress, physical exhaustion, lack of space and privacy, and poor sanitation experienced by mothers in emergency settings mean that many babies are missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding to help them survive,” Russell and Ghebreyesus emphasized.

They pointed out that fewer than half of all newborn babies are breastfed in the first hour of life, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and death, adding that only 44 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life – short of the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent by 2025.

The United Nations’ authorities stressed that protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is more important than ever, not just for protecting the planet as the ultimate natural, sustainable, first food system, but also for the survival, growth and development of millions of infants.

“That is why UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to step up efforts to prioritize investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts,” Russell and Ghebreyesus said.

They asked the above-mentioned groups and stakeholders to

equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed.

They also told nations and groups to protect caregivers and healthcare workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry by fully adopting and implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, including in humanitarian settings.

The UN  authorities recommended the implementation of family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space and support they need to breastfeed.


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