Fiji

Fiji becomes first country in the Asia-Pacific region to have all public hospitals declared baby-friendly

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Fiji/2009/Kurusiga
Staff of Rotuma Hospital receive a plaque celebrating the hospital’s baby-friendly status.

By Donna Hoerder

SUVA, Fiji, 10 August 2009 - Fiji has become the first country in the Asia-Pacific region to achieve ‘baby-friendly status’ for all of its 21 public hospitals, by the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).

Launched in 1991, BFHI is an effort by UNICEF and WHO to ensure that all maternity facilities encourage exclusive breastfeeding.

Rotuma Rural Hospital became the 21st hospital in Fiji to be certified as baby-friendly by the initiative. 

The announcement was made during World Breastfeeding Week. UNICEF Nutrition Specialist Seini Kurusiga presented the award to the hospital on behalf of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Both UNICEF and WHO are proud to share this milestone achievement with the Ministry of Health and the Government of Fiji,” said Ms. Kurusiga.

Exclusive breastfeeding
Globally, only 38 per cent of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed, though research shows that optimal breastfeeding is the single most effective preventive intervention for reducing infant mortality.

“The improved survival rate of mothers - and particularly children - can be achieved through Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives, which recognise each mother’s right to make her decision based on full and accurate information about feeding options,” added Ms. Kurusiga.

Exclusive breastfeeding is a proven and effective way for reducing maternal and new-born disability and mortality.

Breastfeeding support

A maternity facility or hospital is designated as baby-friendly when it does not accept free or low-cost breast milk substitutes or feeding bottles and has implemented 10 specific steps to support successful breastfeeding.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Fiji/2009/Kurusiga
Rotuma Hospital was the last of Fiji’s 21 public hospitals to be declared baby-friendly.

The significant achievement by the Government of Fiji was aided by the designation of a national BFHI coordinator, a strong government commitment and a community-based effort to organize breastfeeding support groups.

Inspiring others

“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 Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Health Dr. Sala Saketa.

Since the 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 is improving.


 

 

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