|© UNICEF video|
|A mother brings her baby for a checkup at a baby-friendly hospital in Tajikistan. She is exclusively breastfeeding her daughter for the first six months.|
By Parveena Muhammedkhajaeva
During World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August 2008, UNICEF and other advocacy groups are promoting exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, which experts believe could save 1.3 million infant lives every year.
Tajikistan, 7 August 2008 - Over the last decade, Tajikistan Breastfeeding Week has been made possible through the support provided by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Tajikistan and its partners. This year, in an effort to increase support from other channels, World Breastfeeding Week is promoting the global theme of, ‘going for the gold by supporting mothers to breastfeed’.
“Support for breastfeeding is crucially important for mothers, babies and the community itself. This golden support, irrespective of conditions, ensures the best start for children’s lives,” said Ruth Leano, Deputy Representative of UNICEF in Tajikistan.
According to the National Breastfeeding Coordinator Rahmatulloev Sherali only 25 per cent of Tajik mothers are breastfeeding their babies exclusively for the first six months.
“This figure, compared to other CIS countries is high,” said Ms. Sherali. “Nevertheless, we need to strengthen our work and jointly support mothers. We need to focus on breastfeeding promotion through family physicians and community nurses who work with financially-challenged families with little access to doctors.”
Hospitals lending support
Dushanbe Maternity Hospital # 3 is one of the ‘baby-friendly’ hospitals in the country that has been supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed.
“Before the National Breastfeeding Programme, mothers were encouraged by family members or peers to feed their children with artificial or animal milk, which can be unsafe for children,” said Dr. Habiba Okhunova.
A breastfeeding support group, established in the hospital, provides consultation and assistance to young mothers in the surrounding areas.
“We strongly recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding for up to two years with supplementary food. We prepare mothers, starting from pregnancy, on how to breastfeed their children. After delivery, we visit the mothers and continue our explanation of the proper breastfeeding practices,” explained Dr. Okhunova.
UNICEF continues its support
UNICEF in Tajikistan supports the MoH in the certification and re-certification of Baby-Friendly Hospitals (BFH), the monitoring of the implementation of the national law on ‘Breastfeeding Protection’ and the awareness-raising campaigns for mothers and caregivers.
Progress can be seen in the efforts the country has made in promoting breastfeeding promotion since 2000. Already, 30 of the 72 maternity hospitals in the country have been certified as BFH.