Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Chief Catherine Russell released a joint statement on Monday, marking the start of World Breastfeeding Week, and stressed that global crises, supply chain shocks and insecurity threaten the health and nutrition of millions of babies and children like never before. .
This World Breastfeeding Week, under its theme Intensify breastfeeding: educate and supportUNICEF and WHO call on governments to allocate increased resources to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programs, especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency situations.
Safe, Nutritious, Accessible
During emergencies, including those in Afghanistan, Yemen, Ukraine, the Horn of Africa and the vast Sahel region of Africa, breastfeeding ensures a safe, nutritious and accessible source of food for babies and young children, agency heads noted.
“It provides 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 against common childhood illnesses.
Yet, they added, “the emotional distress, physical exhaustion, lack of space and privacy, and lack of hygiene experienced by mothers in emergency situations means that many babies are deprived of the benefits of breastfeeding to help them survive”.
According to the UN, less than half of all newborns are breastfed within the first hour of life, making them more vulnerable to disease and death. And only 44% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, below the WHO’s World Health Assembly target of 50% by 2025.
“Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is more important than ever, not only to protect our planet as the ultimate natural and sustainable food system, but also for the survival, growth and development of millions of infants,” said Tedros and Ms. Russel.
The agency heads said that to increase the number of babies breastfed globally, governments, donors, civil society and the private sector must focus on four key areas.
- Invest as a priority in policies and programs to support breastfeeding, especially in situations of fragility and food insecurity.
- Equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counseling and practical support to mothers.
- Protect caregivers and healthcare workers from the unethical commercial influence of the infant formula industry by adopting and fully implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, including in humanitarian settings .
- Implement family-friendly public health policies and initiatives that provide mothers with the time, space and support they need to breastfeed.