‘Vi­tal to feed chil­dren the nat­u­ral way’

Cape Argus - - METRO - Unicef ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Hen­ri­etta H Fore and WHO di­rec­tor-gen­eral Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus

THE theme of World Breast-feed­ing Week 2020 is “Sup­port breast-feed­ing for a health­ier planet”.

In line with this theme, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and the UN Chil­dren’s Fund (Unicef) are calling on gov­ern­ments to pro­tect and pro­mote women’s ac­cess to skilled breast-feed­ing coun­selling.

Breast-feed­ing de­liv­ers health, nu­tri­tional and emo­tional ben­e­fits to both chil­dren and mothers. And it forms part of a sus­tain­able food sys­tem. But breast-feed­ing is not al­ways easy, and mothers need sup­port.

Coun­selling can em­power women to over­come chal­lenges and pre­vent feed­ing and care prac­tices that may in­ter­fere with op­ti­mal breast-feed­ing, such as the pro­vi­sion of un­nec­es­sary liq­uids, foods, and breast milk sub­sti­tutes to in­fants and young chil­dren. Anal­y­sis in­di­cates that in­creas­ing rates of ex­clu­sive breast-feed­ing could save the lives of 820 000 chil­dren an­nu­ally.

Skilled breast-feed­ing coun­selling can be pro­vided by dif­fer­ent ac­tors in­clud­ing health-care pro­fes­sion­als, lac­ta­tion coun­sel­lors and peer sup­port providers in health fa­cil­i­ties or clin­ics, through home vis­its or com­mu­nity pro­grammes, in per­son or re­motely.

Dur­ing the Covid-19 pan­demic, it is even more im­por­tant to find in­no­va­tive so­lu­tions to en­sure that ac­cess to these es­sen­tial ser­vices is not dis­rupted.

This is why Unicef and the WHO, in line with the pol­icy ac­tions ad­vo­cated by the Unicef-WHO-led Global Breast-feed­ing Col­lec­tive, are calling on gov­ern­ments to:

● In­vest to make skilled breast-feed­ing coun­selling avail­able to ev­ery woman. En­sur­ing this will re­quire in­creased fi­nanc­ing for breast-feed­ing pro­grammes and im­proved mon­i­tor­ing and im­ple­men­ta­tion of poli­cies, pro­grammes and ser­vices.

● Train health-care work­ers, in­clud­ing mid­wives and nurses, to de­liver skilled breast-feed­ing coun­selling.

● En­sure coun­selling is made avail­able as part of rou­tine health and nu­tri­tion ser­vices.

● Part­ner and col­lab­o­rate with civil so­ci­ety and health pro­fes­sional as­so­ci­a­tions, build­ing strong col­lab­o­ra­tive sys­tems for pro­vi­sion of ap­pro­pri­ate coun­selling.

● Pro­tect health work­ers from the in­flu­ence of the baby food in­dus­try.

To­gether, through com­mit­ment, con­certed ac­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion, we can en­sure that ev­ery mother has ac­cess to skilled breast-feed­ing coun­selling, em­pow­er­ing her to give her baby the best pos­si­ble start in life.

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