The National, Thursday 23rd August, 2012
ON the 20th anniversary of World Breast-feeding Week, Unicef said strong national policies supporting breast-feeding could prevent the deaths of more than a million children under five in the developing world each year.
Despite compelling evidence that exclusive breast-feeding prevents diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia that kill millions of children every year, global rates of breast-feeding have remained relatively stagnant in the developing world, growing from 32% in 1995 to 39% in 2010.
“In the Pacific breast-feeding rates dropped for a number of reasons, either because mothers were being integrated into the workforce, were not supported by their spouses or were not making informed decisions about the long-term benefits breast-feeding would bring to their children,” it said.
“Exclusive breast-feeding (i.e breast-feeding from birth to six months) are about 40% in Fiji, Tuvalu and Vanuatu, and 31% in the Marshall Islands,” Unicef Pacific Representative, Dr Isiye Ndombi, said.
“Breast-feeding is a precious gift of nature.
“It helps to prevent a number of diseases in childhood and later in life.
“It offers protection from infections, allergies and adult-life chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer that rob the national budgets of millions of dollars.
“If breast-feeding were promoted more effectively and women were protected from aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes, we would see more children survive and thrive, with lower rates of disease and lower rates of malnutrition and stunting,” Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said.