Government of Lao PDR, UNICEF launch new campaign to promote Exclusive Breastfeeding from birth to 6 months
Vientiane, 28 September 2009 - The Lao Government and its international partners have launched an intensive campaign aimed at raising the country’s rates of exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) for children aged 0 to 6 months. The campaign is part of the Government’s renewed commitments to meeting its Millennium Development Goals related to child survival and maternal health.
The new campaign is being undertaken at provincial, district and village levels. It has already involved the training and activation of some 3,000 village-level volunteers, known as ‘breast milk messengers’, who work directly with mothers and local caregivers to provide information and counseling. Trainings and orientations have also been conducted for health staff and officials in an initial nine target provinces.
“Most mothers in Laos are actually already breastfeeding their children to six months and beyond,” said Dr Khamseng Philavong, Exclusive Breastfeeding Coordinator and pediatrician at the Centre of Mother and Child Health. “So the challenge is not to convince mothers to begin breastfeeding, but to encourage them to do it exclusively to six months. We’re reminding mothers that adding anything else to their children’s diet – formula, rice, juice, even water – is unnecessary and can be dangerous.”
Doctors and health professionals have long emphasized that breast milk contains all the nutrients necessary to promote a child’s growth, strength, immunity and intelligence – and if provided from birth and exclusively for the first six months, it improves a child’s health and development.
“The act of exclusive breastfeeding is truly a life-saving intervention,” said Ms Laila Ismail Khan, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR. “When given to a child exclusively from the first moments after birth to six months of age, it increases a child’s opportunities and rights to a healthy future.”
Although at least 90% of mothers are reported to breastfeed in Laos, only about 26% of babies are breast-fed exclusively to six months, according to the Ministry of Health. Their target under the new campaign is to raise that figure to 60 percent over the next year.
To accomplish this, the EBF campaign is targeting mothers, health workers, family members, government officials and everyone coming into contact with new and expecting mothers.
The launch in Vientiane, held at Lao Plaza Hotel, included the screening of new TV spots, a short documentary, and drama and song performances. The official opening was marked by Madame Sisay Ludetmounsone, Vice President of the National Commission for Mothers and Children (NCMC) & President of the Lao Women’s Union (LWC).
Additional launch/campaign orientations will be held for northern provinces in Pakse on October 6 and in Luang Prabang on October 13 and for southern provinces.
The United Nations Childen’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) are supporting implementation of the campaign through funding and technical support.
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