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Breast-feeding can save 70,000 Children annually in Uttar Pradesh

© UNICEF/India/2007

4.5 lakh kids in the state do not live even to celebrate their first birthday

* Breast–feed children are healthier, peaceful, more intelligent and help carve a more harmonious society: Study
*IMS leads to increased infant malnutrition, mortality and morbidity: Dr Gupta 
*India cannot become a Super-power with undernourished children: Dr  Hettiaratchy

By Kulsum Mustafa

LUCKNOW, August 2: Ignorance is not always bliss. Certainly not when it can act as a deterrent in saving thousand of young, innocent lives and also pose as speed-breaker in the carving out of a better and more peaceful society. Cold statistics reveal that Uttar Pradesh can save 70,000 babies annually simply by ensuring that all the babies are exclusively breast-fed full six months followed by complementary feed till the age of two.

Breast-fed children are not only more healthy, brainy they also prove to be better citizens as they are more at peace with themselves and their surroundings, says research
For a state like UP, which has the highest infant mortality rate of 25 per cent in the country, breast-feeding can not only prove to be a big life saver but also a great face-saver too.

UNICEF along with and its global partners World Alliance for Breast-feeding Action, WHO and other NGO partners celebrated the World Breast Feeding Week (August 1-7) by organizing a State Meet on Breastfeeding at Hotel Clarks Avadh in Lucknow (U.P.) on 1 August 2006.
 
Despite being  known as a breast-feeding nation,  India had to enact the Infant Milk Substitute Act  in1992 to protect breast-feeding from the commercial onslaught of companies out to make a profit at the expense of the health of infants. The Act was later amended in 2003 and came to force on 1st January, 2004.

Speaking on this year’s theme “Infant Milk Substitute Act: Making it known to People”,  Dr Arun Gupta, National Co-ordinator Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, pointed out the ploys of these companies going all out to make inroads not just in urban but into rural areas as well.

“We have to fight to ensure public interest above commercial interest. We have to ensure that companies selling infant formulas do not spread their wings further in our state,” he said.

Narrating facts and figures which turned out to be a real eye-opener for the invitees, which included media, Dr Gupta said that 4.5 lakh children in UP do not live to celebrate their first birthday. UP’s infant mortality rate is 72 per thousand while it has 51.7 per cent underweight children.

According to Dr Gupta the main reason that more and more mothers are turning to infant formulas is because companies selling infant food make them psychological prisoners to the belief that their product is superior to mother’s milk and thus more healthy for their new born, when just the contrary is true.

He explained that any such propaganda or advertisement, allurements to doctors or medical staff is a criminal offence and punishable under the Act.

“If India wants to become a Super Power it will have to produce well nourished children,” said Dr Nimal Hettiaratchy, UNICEF state Representative speaking on the occasion. 

He emphasized that IMS promoters work cleverly and reduce woman’s confidence in breastfeeding which is the most wholesome and natural food for a new born.

“Use this week not just as a commeration but as a spring board to make a difference in the life of the nation,” he urged all those present in the hall.

Speaking on the role of the media in promoting breastfeeding, Darshan Desai, Resident Editor - Indian Express (U.P.), was of the view that a total review of the health campaign for promotion of breastfeed was necessary as it has still not gone down to the grass-root level.

“Media has all the space and time for such social battles maybe what is lacking is a better interaction with the NGOs and organizations working in this area.”

“Breast-feeding is no longer  a personal choice  of the mother or the family: it is the legal right of every child and its violation is punishable under the IMS Act, “ said Margaret Narayan, UNICEF nutrition team member, U.P. 

According to her, mother’s milk is manna for a child and helps in the overall development. Studies have  revealed that breastfed children are more healthy, secure, content and thus prove to be better citizens.

 

 

 

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