In accordance with the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding (WHO-UNICEF 2003), the overall goal of UNICEF’s infant and young child feeding programming is to protect, promote and support optimal infant and young child feeding, in order to improve nutrition status, growth and development, health and thus the survival of infants and young children.
It is estimated that reaching all infants with a package of interventions to protect, promote and support optimal infant and young child feeding practices - breastfeeding and complementary feeding - can contribute to preventing 1.4 million and 600,000 child deaths respectively, or just over a fifth of the total annual child deaths. The good news is that breastfeeding rates are no longer declining on a global level and have increased during the last decade in many countries, thanks to concerted programming efforts. Recent data highlights that there has been substantial and encouraging progress over the last 10 years in over a dozen countries, where exclusive breastfeeding rates increased by 20 percentage points or more (UNICEF database, 2007). Many of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. These successes show that progress is possible, even in challenging situations. Positive outcomes are achieved when countries implement, at scale, a comprehensive approach to improving infant feeding practices. This could include efforts at the level of policy and legislation, health system strengthening and capacity building, community-level action and behaviour change communication initiatives.
UNICEF's strategy and actions in support of infant and young child feeding, through its Medium Term Strategic Plan, underline the importance of multi-sectoral approach to improve health and nutrition. The strategy is based upon the Convention on the Rights of the Child - Article 24 - which states that governments must ensure that all sectors of society are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, including the advantages of breastfeeding. Further policy basis for the strategy includes the 1990 and 2005 Innocenti Declarations on breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding respectively and the 2003 Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. In addition, optimal infant and young child feeding supports all of the Millennium Development Goals and directly responds to the World Fit for Children goals (Paragraph 37.5).
UNICEF efforts will recognize children’s and families’ rights and responsibilities and include suggested proven activities for advocacy and support of government and non-governmental actions at three levels: national, health system and community. As per the strategies outlined in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, UNICEF’s main areas of support include:
1. Support multi-sectoral national commitment and partnership by encouraging the development and implementation of:
2. Enhance implementation of health services and training reform (baby-friendly health care):
3. Provide support for community level programming:
4. Support communication for social and behaviour change and advocacy:
5. Address IYCF in exceptionally difficult circumstances: