Sunday September 26, 2021

Improved breastfeeding practices could annually save lives of 820,000 children: NCRC

August 01, 2021

Islamabad : Breastfeeding is the best way to give new-born children the necessary nutrients and antibodies, which provide a vital shield of protection against diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. It promotes better health for mothers and children alike, and decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Increased breastfeeding is estimated to avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.

A press release issued by the National Commission on the Rights of Child (NCRC) reminds that according to the World Health Organization (WHO), exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of a baby’s life and continued breastfeeding until the age of two with proper solid foods can guarantee a healthy life of a child. Research worldwide claims that improving breastfeeding practices globally could save the lives of more than 820,000 children every year. There are only 40% of children under six months who are exclusively breastfed.

The awareness message has been issued in connection with World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), which occurs annually in the first week of August and represents a global celebration of breastfeeding efforts including breastfeeding promotion, support, education, research, progressive trends and normalizing breastfeeding as the gold standard of infant nutrition. The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2021 theme ‘Protect breastfeeding: a shared responsibility’ denotes that although support at the individual level is very important, breastfeeding must be considered a public health issue that requires investment at all levels.

The federal and provincial governments have enacted legislation on protection and promotion of breastfeeding and child nutrition but there are issues of implementation. According to WHO, only 37.7% of mothers in Pakistan practise “exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months.” Statistics suggest that 44 percent of Pakistani children are stunted (lower height for age, having poor cognition and other development milestones). According to the latest National Nutrition Survey (2018), early initiation of breastfeeding is as high as 61% in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) while only 20% of new-born children in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) are given breast milk during the first hour after birth. Practice of exclusive breastfeeding is above 50% in Sindh, KP and GB provinces and ranges between 42% and 44% in Punjab, Balochistan and AJK.

Afshan Tehseen, Chairperson of NCRC stated, “Our Commission firmly supports the need to promote breastfeeding in Pakistan so that every child has the best start in life. It is imperative that the importance and benefits of breastfeeding must be spread for the health and well-being of the mother and her child.”