29 janvier 2016 nexizeteam

Improving breastfeeding practices could save the lives of over 820 000 children a year

Niger, November 2012. During the community health sessions, led by volunteer health workers called 'Natural Leaders' mums in the village of Mazadou Abdou take turns to demonstrate the 'Key Family Practices' that contribute to their children's health and in this village have literally saved lives.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months - the very best start for a child when safe and nutritious breast mild is all that a baby needs.
Demonstrated by mother Haouaou who has seen that her child born after the programme started is much stronger that the child born before.
Here Haouaou feeds 8 month old Issiakou with 4 year old daughter Oumiera watching.

By Jessica Mony

In 2011, droughts across the Sahel plunged millions of families into a food crisis. A year after UNICEF and partners’ emergency response began, we ask ourselves how can we stop this vulnerability and persistent cycle of suffering? A poor, rural Nigerien village 600 people may hold the answer. Here, despite every family’s struggle during the drought, no child suffered malnutrition in 2012.

Just three years ago it was rare for a week to go by without a child dying from combinations of malnutrition, diarrhoea and malaria in Mazadou Abdou village. During the frequent droughts, at times this would rise to two or three. No family was spared the pain of loss and mourning. Haouoau and Loli Abdou are just one set of parents that faced this tragedy. Loli holds up three fingers and lists that in 2000, 2002 and then again in 2004 they lost three children to malaria. Looking solemnly at their healthy 8 month baby boy Issiakou, it is clear the scars will likely never heal for this family. Sadly, their situation is not unique in this or any other village across the Sahel.

Fortunately, in 2008 a simple UNICEF programme of family practices helped change all of this. The practices are simple and include exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life; complementary feeding for children after six mont

Series from The Lancet provides more evidence that breastfeeding is lifesaving – UNICEF

Reductions in child mortality and reduced breast and ovarian cancer rates for women who breastfeed

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, 29 January 2015 – A new series of papers just published by The Lancet provides evidence that improving breastfeeding practices could save the lives of over 820,000 children a year, 9 out of 10 of them infants under 6 months.

Increased breastfeeding can prevent nearly half of diarrhoea episodes and a third of respiratory infections – the two leading causes of death among children under age 5.

The Lancet papers also show that each year a mother breastfeeds, her risk of developing invasive breast cancer is reduced by 6 per cent. Current breastfeeding rates already prevent almost 20,000 deaths from breast cancer each year, a number which could be doubled with improved breastfeeding practices. Longer breastfeeding is also linked to a reduction in ovarian cancer.

 

“Investing in breastfeeding has a significant impact on the health of women and children and on the economies of both rich and poor countries,” said UNICEF Chief of Nutrition Werner Schultink. “The Series provides crucial evidence for the case that breastfeeding is a cornerstone of children’s survival, health, growth and development and contributes to a more prosperous and sustainable future.”

 

The Lancet Series confirms the lifesaving benefits of breastfeeding for women and children in low-, middle- and high-income countries alike, UNICEF said.

Breastfeeding lowers child mortality in high income countries. It is associated with a 36 per cent reduction in sudden infant deaths and an almost 60 per cent decline in the most common intestinal disease among premature infants. A child who breastfeeds for longer also has a reduced risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.

The Lancet Series found that cognitive losses associated with not breastfeeding, which impact earning potential, amount to $302 billion annually. Low- and middle- income countries lose more than $70 billion annually, while high income countries lose more than $230 billion annually due to low rates of breastfeeding.

 

UNICEF said the multiple advantages in terms of health for mothers and children, as well as potential economic gains, should impel governments to institute policies and programmes to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

 

This is especially important for working mothers. While early return to work tends to lessen the chances that a mother will breastfeed, in roughly 60 per cent of countries, maternity leave does not reach the ILO recommended minimum of 14 weeks paid leave. When breastfeeding mothers do return to work, their places of employment lack facilities for them to breastfeed or express milk.

 

UNICEF’s Schultink reiterated The Lancet’s conclusion that improving breastfeeding rates is a fundamental driver in achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those related to health, child survival and education

 

“Breastfeeding is the most natural, cost effective, environmentally sound and readily available way we know to provide all children, rich or poor, with the healthiest start in life,” he said. “It’s a win-win for all concerned to make it a priority.”

Note to editors:

UNICEF experts are among the authors of The Lancet’s Breastfeeding Series, which will launch on Friday, 29 January 2016, at 10:00 a.m. at the Kaiser Family Foundation Conference Center, 1330 G Street, NW, Washington, D.C.

 

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

 

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