UNICEF and Minisitry of Health partner to certify Belize's first baby-friendly hospital
Belize, June 27, 2008 - In a recent UNICEF study, figures showed only 10 percent of Belizean women were found to be exclusively breastfeeding their babies for those crucial first six months, thus leaving the majority without the protection that breast-milk provides. In response to growing concerns that women were not being informed sufficiently about the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for their babies, the Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF, the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO), National Committee for Families and Children (NCFC) today launched the first Baby Friendly Hospital in Belize at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital (KHMH) within the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
Under BFHI, a global initiative established by WHO and UNICEF in 1991, health facilities are designated as Baby-Friendly centers where mothers are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed or give babies only breastmilk for the first six months. It also aims to improve the care of pregnant women, mothers and newborns at the facilities. KHMH is the first hospital to re-introduce the initiative and had an external evaluation done in March 2008 that confirmed their achievements in the implementation of the ten steps for successful breastfeeding – a key part of BFHI that seeks to improve the role of maternity services to encourage mothers to breastfeed babies for the best start in life.
Dr. Natalia Largaespada Beer, Technical Adviser Maternal and Child Health Programme, Ministry of Health said, “Under this intervention, the breast feeding manual was updated in 2007. Health care providers in the public sector at primary and secondary care and community volunteers (Community Health Workers and Traditional Birth Attendants) have been trained in breastfeeding. Hospitals in the districts are already in the process of conducting self assessment in preparation to be certified as Baby Friendly,”
Speaking at the certification ceremony, Minister of Health, Hon. Pablo Marin, stated, “Our children have a right to health; and that right, begins with exclusive breastfeeding. The children of Belize deserve the very best. I am proud KHMH is leading the country in making sure that they get the best care possible.” He also expressed his Ministry’s goal of having all public sector hospitals certified as Baby Friendly.
Meanwhile UNICEF Belize Representative, Rana Flowers, said: “The benefits of breast feeding are enormous to the baby now, to the child as they grow and to the society that will pay less in health care costs later in time. The decision to breast feed, the skills to hold the baby in the right position, to have them latch onto the breast successfully must be conveyed right there at birth, in those key few hours after the baby is born. Hospitals have been wooed, coerced and bribed by breastmilk companies into promoting and forcing formula on women early so that their babies become reliant on formula and to stop mothers producing their breastmilk. In certifying the Karl Heusner today, the hospital staff are making a stand for children's health and for the long-term health of their community, they are committing to being a team behind the mother –a team that stays with her while she gets over those first few difficult weeks of being home with a new baby and mastering breastfeeding.” She continued by saying, “And don’t underestimate the role of fathers here –when a father supports his partner to breastfeed then a greater success rate is achieved. In areas where hospitals have achieved baby-friendly status, more mothers are breast-feeding their infants, and child health improves as a consequence.”
Since its launch, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has grown over the last 15 years to include more than 20,000 designated facilities in 152 countries. BFHI aims to give every baby the best start in life by creating a health care environment where breastfeeding is the norm, thus helping to reduce the levels of infant morbidity and mortality in our country. Belize supports BFHI and has a breast feeding policy that was approved in 1995. The policy provides the legal framework for the promotion, protection and support to successful breastfeeding.
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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.