JAKARTA, INDONESIA 21 December 2010 – As Indonesia commemorates national Mothers’ Day this week, influential leaders from the government and the country’s religious community have come together with the support of UNICEF to promote the importance of breastfeeding.
At a special conference led by the Indonesian Ministry of Health in coordination with the Ministry of Religious Affairs, and building on the World Day for Prayer and Action in November, leaders from Indonesia’s Muslim, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu faiths came together to discuss their role in promoting breastfeeding amongst adherents.
“The health of the nation is dependent upon a shared vision and shared action that can only come through practical partnerships,” said UNICEF Representative Angela Kearney. “Today we are showing how the public sector and the faith-based community in Indonesia can deliver a practical commitment to improving the health of our children.”
“Every religion accepts a responsibility to guide its followers, to show wisdom and foresight in enabling people to make the right choices in life,” added Ms. Kearney. “Today, we are focusing on a critical health issue, where our collective voices can offer life-saving guidance to families.”
While breastfeeding is globally proven to provide the best possible building-blocks for an infant’s life, both in terms of physical and cognitive development, as well as protecting the mother’s health, there has been a marked decrease in exclusive breastfeeding amongst mothers in Indonesia in recent years, which means that new-born babies and young infants are being put at risk of disease, illness and impaired development.
Rates of exclusive breastfeeding in Indonesia have fallen from 40 per cent in 2002, with less than one-third of infants now being breastfed in line with global standards in the first six months of life.
Data also shows that nearly one in every five Indonesian children under the age of five is underweight, and many children suffer from other nutrition-related problems such as stunting. Promoting improved nutrition practices are therefore seen as essential to tackling these alarming child development indicators.
“Religious leaders have the power to persuade their followers about the importance of breastfeeding, a simple life-saving practice that is referred to in all the Holy Scripts including the Quran, the Bible, the Vedas and the Tripitaka,” said Ms. Kearney.
At the closing of the conference, the religious leaders stated their shared commitment to develop an action plan with their clerics to ensure that positive messages and key information about breastfeeding and its benefits to mothers and children were widely disseminated amongst their adherents.
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org
For more information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, UNICEF Indonesia
Tel + 62 21 2996 8140