Saturday 16 October 2021 - 10:36:56 am

WHO, UNICEF issue joint statement to promote breastfeeding-friendly environments

NEW YORK, 2nd August, 2021 (WAM) -- The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today issued a joint statement highlighting the importance of prioritising breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies, including ensuring healthcare workers have the resources and information they need to effectively support mothers to breastfeed.

Marking World Breastfeeding Week 2021, the statement said that "Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond offer a powerful line of defence against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity. Breastfeeding also acts as babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses."

"While there has been progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades – with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally – the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains."

The statement explained that the UN Food Systems Summit in September and the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit in December will provide governments, donors, civil society and the private sector with the opportunity to make smart investments and commitments to tackle the global malnutrition crisis – including protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding – through stronger policies, programmes and actions.

"In many countries, the pandemic has caused significant disruptions in breastfeeding support services, while increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.

"Several countries have reported that producers of baby foods have compounded these risks by invoking unfounded fears that breastfeeding can transmit COVID-19 and marketing their products as a safer alternative to breastfeeding," the statement explained, and called for the vaccination of nursing mothers, and called on mothers who are suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19 to continue breastfeeding.

WAM/Amjad Saleh