UNICEF Calls on Medical Professionals in Egypt to Promote Breastfeeding in Hospitals
CAIRO, 1 August 2007 – UNICEF today called upon health care givers in Egyptian facilities to ensure that breastfeeding begins within one hour of birth. Breastfeeding babies immediately can prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths, but newborns delivered in Egyptian hospitals do not often get immediate access to their mothers.
An increasing number of Egyptian babies are not given breast milk in the first crucial hour of life. Only 42.9% children began breastfeeding within one hour of birth in 2005, a marked reduction from the 2000 figure of 57 percent.
“Early breastfeeding provides critical nutrients, protects infants against deadly diseases and fosters growth and development," UNICEF Egypt Deputy Representative Hannan Sulieman at the start of World Breastfeeding Week.
According to the 2005 DHS study, only about a third of women who are assisted by a doctor or nurse, or who deliver in a private health facility initiate breastfeeding within one hour. Almost 75 percent of births in Egypt are attended to by a health care professional.
"Ironically medical assistance at delivery and delivery in private health facilities are associated with lower proportion of early initiation," said Sulieman, adding that enhanced training and communication campaigns could help reverse this worrying trend.
A study from Ghana published in the journal Pediatrics indicates that 16 per cent of neonatal deaths can be prevented by breastfeeding infants from day one, rising to 22 per cent if breastfeeding begins within one hour of birth. Early initiation of breastfeeding is the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week.
Around 2.4 per cent of all babies in Egypt die in the first month. Exclusive breastfeeding is common but not universal in early infancy. The rate is 52.4 per cent among infants zero to three months old, which drops to 38.3 per cent among infants zero to five months old. This leaves hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to disease and death.
Globally, UNICEF estimates that exclusive breastfeeding to the age of six months could prevent the deaths of 1.3 million children under the age of five each year. Using the Ghana data regarding the early initiation of breastfeeding more than 9500 neonatal deaths could be saved every year if breastfeeding is initiated within one hour of delivery.
UNICEF support for integrated, community-based health care includes the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding. The agency is working with the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) and relevant partners to revitalize the Baby Friendly Initiative, support a national infant feeding strategy, improve ante- and post-natal care and boost resources for new mothers at the community-level.
World Breastfeeding Week
Breastfeeding Advocacy package
The Ghana Study
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