Liberia: World Breastfeeding Week to promote better nutrition and child health
Monrovia, Liberia, 31 July 2009 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), with its partners in Liberia, is emphasizing the importance of exclusive breastfeeding practices for the first six months after birth to ensure that children in the country grow up healthy, as the 2009 World Breastfeeding Week is launched until 9 August.
"Undernutrition is an underlying cause in one-third of all deaths of children under five years old," said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman, during a visit in Nigeria, West Africa.
"During the first six months of life, breast milk completely meets an infant’s nutritional requirements. It offers an excellent source of nutrition for infants and, especially where clean water is lacking, helps keep young children safe from dangerous water-borne illnesses like diarrhea."
Breastfeeding also provides infants with protection from infectious and respiratory illnesses, boosts their immune systems and helps protect them from chronic conditions later in life.
Every year, approximately 2000 children under two years old die in Liberia due to poor breastfeeding practices.
While the practice of breastfeeding in general remains widespread in the country, less than 20% of mothers will use only this method to feed their newborn for the first six months and not mix other type of food during that period.
Providing encouragement and support to mothers to breastfeed their infants, alongside support for the health and well-being of mothers themselves, is an important key to reducing infant malnutrition.
According to the Lancet, optimal breastfeeding in the first two years of life, and particularly exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, can have the single largest impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent 12 to 15 per cent of all under five deaths in the developing world.
UNICEF and its partners is using the week to promote better nutrition and highlight the role that breastfeeding can play in protecting infants from undernutrition and illnesses that are often byproducts of crisis or post-crisis situations.
Currently only 38 per cent of infants worldwide benefit from exclusive breastfeeding. Action to support breastfeeding mothers and promote exclusive breastfeeding can help save children’s lives and promote healthy development.
Globally, this year’s World Breastfeeding Week provides an opportunity to sensitize policy-makers, donors, implementing partners and the general public to the benefits of breastfeeding, to its particular importance in emergency situations, and to the need to protect and support mothers to breastfeed during emergencies.
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