By Daudi Nana
KAMPALA. Already at the forefront of creating breastfeeding corners for mothers so as to support proper early childhood development a global report has now included Uganda among 23 countries with exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
It is no mean achievement especially in an environment where a latest report by UNICEF and the World Health Organisation, in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective (GBC), no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding.
The GBC is a new initiative to increase worldwide breastfeeding rates,
Released on August 1 at the start of the World Breastfeeding Week in Geneva, the Global Breastfeeding Scorecard evaluated 194 nations, reporting that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are fed on only breast milk.
Uganda, despite the above unsatisfactory find, will still find some progress in its exclusive breastfeeding rates of 60 percent-plus.
This placement dovetails with what the 2016 Uganda Demographic and Health Survey preliminary report indicated. It said then that only 66 per cent of Ugandan children under 6 months are exclusively breastfed, while two per cent are not breastfed at all.
In addition, the percentage of children exclusively breastfed decreases sharply with age from 83 per cent of infants aged 0-1 month to 69 per cent of infants aged 2-3 months, then drops further to 43 per cent of infants aged 4-5 months.
WHO director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said this week that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers.
“Breast feeding is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia; two major causes of death in infants. Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life.
“Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.” Dr Ghebreyesus said.
The Scorecard names the other 22 countries joining Uganda with exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent as Bolivia, Burundi, Cape Verde, Cambodia, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Eritrea, Kenya, Kiribati, Lesotho, Malawi, Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, São Tome & Principe, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Timor-Leste, Vanuatu, and Zambia.
The report released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week (marked August 1-7 annually) also reveals that an annual investment of only $4.70 [about Shs 16,997] per new-born is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.
A nutrition article published by WHO; Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five.
It could also potentially generate $300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.
The UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake said by failing to invest in breastfeeding, countries are failing mothers, their babies and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective – and cost effective – investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies,” said Mr Lake
The Global Breastfeeding Collective urges countries to raise breastfeeding rates from 0-2 years; enact paid family leave laws and workplace breastfeeding policies; adopt International Labour Organisation maternity protection guidelinest, including provisions for the informal sector and implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in maternity facilities.