Armenia calls for action on breastfeeding
UNICEF, MINISTRY OF HEALTH CALL FOR POLICIES, LEGISLATION PROMOTING BREASTFEEDING
“The evidence is irrefutable and profound. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life is one of the most effective strategies for ensuring his or her survival, health and emotional development”, said UNICEF Armenia Representative Sheldon Yett.
An infant who is not exclusively breastfed is up to 25 times more likely to die from diarrhea and four times more likely to die from pneumonia than a breastfed baby. The child also stands a greater chance of suffering obesity and heart disease in later years.
Yett added that, the creation and enforcement of appropriate legislation governing the marketing and distribution of breast milk substitutes is essential to ensure that progress made in the promotion of breastfeeding in Armenia is sustained.
Over the last years, dedicated efforts by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF have led to an increase in rates of exclusive breastfeeding for four months from under one percent in 1993 to an estimated 45% in 2000. Current six month exclusive breastfeeding rates, which is the optimal, will be available next year. With support from UNICEF 15 hospitals and one polyclinic in Armenia have been certified as baby-friendly for their active support of breastfeeding among mothers.
Success in the promotion of breastfeeding in this country has been a key ingredient to the almost twofold reduction in child mortality rates in Armenia, from 60 per 1,000 livebirths in 1990 down to 35 per 1,000 livebirths in 2002. Armenia is now the only country in CIS that is on track to meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing child mortality by two thirds by 2015.
However, progress made can be easily undermined if companies are allowed to continue unethical marketing or distribution of breastmilk substitutes. Monitoring carried out in Armenia has revealed violations of the International Code.