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??Breast is best?? critical to child nutrition & survival

World Vision Middle East/Eastern Europe/ CA office - Sat, 6 Aug 2011 11:47 GMT
Author: World Vision - MEERO
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For thousands of babies born each year, 'breast is best' is much more than good advice in a catchy slogan. It can be the difference between life and death. This World Breastfeeding Week, World Vision is appealing to health professionals, pregnant women, mothers and their families to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life. 'If all babies were fed only breast milk for the first six months of life, more than one million [globally] would be saved every year,' says Carolyn MacDonald, World Vision Nutrition Director. 'Breastfeeding provides an unequalled source of ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants, especially in the world's poorest communities, where access to clean water, nutritious food, and reliable sanitation facilities are often little more than a dream', she adds. In Afghanistan, where just 39% of the rural population has access to safe water, around 134 children out of 1,000 die before their first birthday. One in five children dies before his or her fifth birthday, with one of the major causes being diarrhea caused by contaminated water and poor sanitation. Lack of awareness around the value of breastmilk, incorrect positioning and the incorrect assumption that breast-milk substitutes like infant formula are superior to breastmilk all contribute to reduced breastfeeding and an increased health risk to infants. Myths and traditional practices also play a role in reduced breastfeeding and poor nutrition. 'Previously on the first day of delivery we did not let the baby breast feed on colostrum* due to our lack of understanding, and instead we fed the baby on animal oil', explains Afghan father Malah Mohammad Rasol, a member of a Community Development Council in Tala, Ghor province, who shared how a World Vision health and nutrition programme is changing attitudes in his village. In Armenia, World Vision is promoting the adoption of the law on 'Infant food circulation and Encouraging Breastfeeding' through its global Child Health Now (CHN) campaign. Once the law is introduced and passed by Parliament, expected to happen in September, no advertising of breast-milk substitutes will be allowed in health facilities and doctors will not be allowed to promote substitutes. 'Last year more than 400 children died without celebrating their first birthday in Armenia. At least 10% of those deaths could be prevented had the mothers breastfed their children according to World Health Organization requirements', explains Naira Gharakhanyan, World Vision Armenia CHN campaign manager. In Lebanon, fewer than 34% of children were breastfed within the recommended first hour of birth and only three in ten women exclusively breastfeed their infant at four months. World Vision is supporting Mother Action Groups across Lebanon to convey accurate information about breastfeeding to pregnant women and mothers so that they can help educate and support their peers. Peer education is also a key strategy for World Vision in the Balkans and Caucasus regions. 'Mothers in Albania are very influenced by their parents-in-law around health practices and they are prone to make the same mistakes as they have made,' said Brikena Maloku, World Vision Albania Health Coordinator in Elbasan, referring to the use of unhealthy supplementary foods for infants. World Vision has established Parent Support Groups in three regions in Georgia to promote exclusive breastfeeding as part of a broader child nutrition programme, supported by television coverage and public meetings. Promoting exclusive breastfeeding to enhance child nutrition is a key element of World Vision's broader health programme that is striving to ensure all children enjoy good health. -Ends- World Breastfeeding Week runs from 1-7 August each year and is celebrated in more than 170 countries. Find out more at: *Colostrum, or first milk, contains antibodies to protect the newborn against disease, as well as being lower in fat and higher in protein than ordinary milk.( Statistics from Afghanistan sourced from The State of the World's Children Report � Statistics -

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