Fiji - First Nation in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve Baby-Friendly Hospital status for all public hospitals
SUVA, 5 August, 2009 – It's World Breastfeeding Week 2009 with a theme of Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response, and what better way to celebrate for Fiji with an announcement that it has become the first nation in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve Baby- Friendly status for all its 21 public hospitals.
Rotuma Rural Hospital became the 21st hospital in Fiji to be awarded the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) making this Pacific Island nation the first country to achieve such a status.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Nutrition Specialist, Mrs. Seini Kurusiga presented the award on behalf of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Mrs. Kurusiga said “Both UNICEF and WHO are proud to share this milestone achievement with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Fiji for one of the simplest interventions and yet challenging tasks of creating the right environment for optimum nutrition resulting in a good start in life for the children of Rotuma and Fiji – the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.”
She added that “the improved survival rate of mothers and particularly children can be achieved through baby friendly hospital initiatives (BFHI) which recognise each mother’s right to make her decision based on full and accurate information about feeding options. Breastfeeding is one of the proven and effective interventions for reducing maternal and new-born disability and mortality.”
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, launched in 1991, is an effort by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that all maternity facilities whether free standing or in a hospital, become centers of breastfeeding support.
A maternity facility or hospital is designated 'baby-friendly' when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles or teats, and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.
Rotuma, an island of only 3000 people, is two and a half hours by plane or two days by boat from the main township and capital of Suva, proving that remoteness poses no barrier to achieving this initiative. All hospitals in Fiji except for the only private hospital in Suva are now considered baby-friendly.
This significant achievement by the Government of Fiji was made possible through the designation of a national BFHI coordinator; strong government commitment with ministers presiding over the awards; and community identification and ownership through mobilization of the community-based breastfeeding support groups.
“We are of course proud of this achievement and hope it can inspire other countries in the Pacific and elsewhere in the world to also achieve Baby-Friendly status for all their public hospitals” said the Permanent Secretary for Health in Fiji, Dr. Sala Saketa.
Since BFHI began, more than 15,000 facilities in 134 countries have been awarded Baby-Friendly status. In many areas where hospitals have been designated Baby-Friendly, more mothers are breastfeeding their infants, and child health has improved.