Babies and mothers worldwide failed by lack of investment in breastfeeding

New analysis shows an investment of US$4.70 per newborn could generate US$300 billion in economic gains by 2025

01 August 2017

GENEVA/NEW YORK – 1 August 2017 – No country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding, according to a new report by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, a new initiative to increase global breastfeeding rates.

The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breast milk) and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.

Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.

“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO. “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.”

The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US$4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.

Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate US$300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most effective – and cost effective – investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake. “By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies – and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity.”  

The investment case shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year and US$119 billion in economic losses.

Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower- and middle-income countries spend approximately US$250 million on breastfeeding programs; and donors provide only an additional US$85 million.

Breastfeeding is critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4). Breastfeeding is also an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth and reducing inequalities. 

In Albania, there have been notable achievements resulting to the increase of the exclusive breastfeeding rates from 11 per cent in 1998 to 39 per cent in 2009.

Considering the persistence of the double burden of malnutrition in Albania with a combination of under and overweight among children, further improvement of the infant and young child feeding practices is an imperative.

UNICEF Office in Albania supports the health system to strengthen the continuous monitoring of child nutrition status through administrative data as well as data collected through household surveys.

The approval of the revised law Nr. 53/2016 for protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and the bylaws on labelling requirements and criteria for development of the health education materials for Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) are an important milestone that will lead to a higher level of protection of breastfeeding.

UNICEF has been a long standing partner of the Ministry of Health in the area of support, protection and promotion of Breastfeeding in Albania through supporting the expansion of the Baby Friendly Initiative and in the recent years promoting community based models. Continued joint efforts of UNICEF, Ministry of Health and the Institute of Public Health will contribute to improvements of the health information system with focus on the child nutrition indicators. 

The partnership between the Ministry of Health, State Health Inspectorate, Albanian International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) and UNICEF will continue to support capacity development efforts for strengthened monitoring and enforcement of the Albanian Law for the Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding. 

Media Contacts

Anila Miria
Communication Officer
UNICEF
Tel: +35569 20 29 021
Tel: +35569 20 24 185

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