By Claudia Rader
NEW YORK, USA, 3 December 2010 – Tens of thousands of Congolese Muslims gathering for prayers in Kinshasa’s Martyrs Stadium heard an unusual message this past Eid Al Adha when their imam, Sheikh Abdala Mangala Mwana Luaba, urged mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies during the six first months of life.
|VIDEO: 20 November 2010 - UNICEF reports on partnering with religious leaders to promote maternal and child health for the 2010 World Day of Prayer and Action for Children. Watch in RealPlayer|
In Kenya, meanwhile, the usually quiet Kahawa West Health Centre on the outskirts of Nairobi was buzzing with activity. More than 800 women and children waited for a battery of services offered free as part of Kenya’s ‘Malezi Bora’ (Good Nurturing) initiative, in which religious leaders promote maternal and child health in their communities.
“I’m expecting my third baby,” said Hannah Maina, a young woman who had travelled 8 km to reach the health facility. “I had to come because on Sunday, our church pastor advised that expectant mothers should visit the clinic for free services,” she added.
Focus on breastfeeding
Similar scenes unfolded around the globe as part of the second annual World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, which mobilizes faith-based and secular organizations to work together for child well-being, particularly in the most disadvantaged and hard-to- reach communities. The day is observed on 20 November to coincide with Universal Children’s Day and the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
|© UNICEF Kenya/2010/Sittoni|
|In Garissa, located in Kenya's North Eastern Province, Prof. Abdulghafur El Busaidy, chairman of the Supreme Council of Muslims, follows up on the progress of a child.|
With UNICEF’s involvement, the 2010 observance promoted maternal health and child survival – particularly exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, which stimulates babies’ immune systems and protects them from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, two of the major causes of infant mortality in the developing world.
In all, UNICEF supported activities in 20 countries, working with religious leaders to reach out across their vast networks and encourage their congregants in a range of positive health practices.
“This initiative enlists religious communities as equal partners in global efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals,” said UNICEF Director of Programmes Dr. Nicholas Alipui. “With their ability to influence behaviour at the family and community level and across all social strata, religious leaders have enormous power to effect real and lasting change in the lives of children.”
Building upon its long history of working with religious leaders from all faiths on issues that affect children, UNICEF supported activities in 20 countries for the 2010 World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, including the following:
Learn more about UNICEF-supported activities in this global partnership with religious leaders and groups.
World Day of Prayer and Action for Children website
(external link, opens in a new window)