Zimbabwe, 22 August 2014: World Breastfeeding Week launched in Harare
By Richard Nyamanhindi
22 August 2014, HARARE – World Breastfeeding week 2014 was launched in Harare under the theme: “Breastfeeding, a winning goal for life.” The event was attended by various government departments, UN agencies, development agencies and other players in child health and nutrition.
The primary objective of the launch was to celebrate the successes and achievements the country has scored and to call for action to bridge the remaining gaps in policy and programmes on breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding as we begin the countdown for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The launch comes amid calls by all stakeholders to improve the exclusive breastfeeding rates in Zimbabwe. Results from the 2010/11 Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey shows that only 31 per cent of babies or one in three children are exclusively breastfed. The rest are being fed inadequate diets. Breastfeeding is, therefore, an intervention that needs a lot of support if Zimbabwe is to achieve the MDG of reducing child mortality by 2015.
In a statement read on his behalf by the Principal Director of Curative Services, Mr. Christopher Tapfumaneyi, Minister of Health and Child Care, Dr. David Parirenyatwa said it was important to craft policies that support breastfeeding at workplaces.
“Let me challenge all employers in Zimbabwe to develop child-friendly environments by advocating for breast feeding breaks and workplace child-friendly rooms.” he said.
“Breastfeeding supports each of the targets of the MDGs and has a large impact on the survival of our children and development of Zimbabwe.”
He said this year’s commemorations were responding to the MDG countdown process by asserting the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in the post 2015 agenda.
Dr. Parirenyatwa advised government and the society to work together in discouraging breastfeeding substitutes.
“The government and society must remove obstacles to breastfeeding, including all forms of promotion of breast milk substitutes, bottles and teats,” he said.
UNICEF Representative, Reza Hossaini, in a speech read on his behalf by Mrs Charity Zvandaziva, highlighted the importance of promoting breastfeeding in saving newborns.
“The promotion of exclusive breastfeeding is and has always been a key element of UNICEF’s work globally for many years. It is fundamental to the survival and development of newborn babies, and to our efforts to eliminate all forms of malnutrition in children, especially stunting,” he said.
Mr. Hossaini also noted the importance of exclusive breastfeeding in providing the best food for a baby’s first six months of life, benefiting children the world over.
“Breastfeeding is so much more than food alone; breastfed infants are much less likely to die from diarrhoea, acute respiratory infections and other diseases; a non-breastfed child is 14 times more likely to die in the first six months than an exclusively breastfed child. Breastfeeding supports infants’ immune systems and helps protect them from chronic conditions later in life, such as obesity and diabetes,” he added.
The UNICEF Representative lamented the low breastfeeding levels in Zimbabwe which have contributed immensely to under nutrition, with more than a third of Zimbabwe’s children under the age of five chronically malnourished and therefore stunted.
World Breastfeeding Week is commemorated annually during the first week of August where countries join together to celebrate, protect, support and promote breastfeeding.
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