Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell at the Fourth World Breastfeeding Conference in Cairo

12 March 2023
Fourth World Breastfeeding Conference
Ibrahim Kamal

Cairo, 12 March 2023- Today, UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell gave an opening speech via video at the Fourth World Breastfeeding conference taking place in Cairo from 12 to 14 March. The conference is organized by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) Arab World, under the auspices of Dr. Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Minister of Health and Population, and sponsored by UNICEF, WHO, WFP, the Egyptian Lactation Consultants Association, and Sharjah Child Friendly Office.

UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell said during her remarks: “No matter where in the world children are born, breastfeeding gives them the best start in life. It helps to protect babies from common infectious diseases, which can be life-threatening. Breastfeeding also boosts children’s immune systems and reduces the risk of obesity and diabetes. And it provides children with the nutrients their growing bodies and brains need to develop to their full potential.

“According to UNICEF and WHO, the share of infants under six months of age who are exclusively breastfed has reached 48 per cent. This is a 10 per cent increase from a decade ago and nearly meets the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent by 2025.

“However, in 2021, less than half of new-born babies were breastfed in the first hour of life … donor funding for supportive programmes remains inadequate … only 10 per cent of countries globally provide the recommended standard of 18 weeks of maternity leave with full pay … and only 20 per cent of countries legislate mandatory provision of paid breaks and nursing facilities.

“UNICEF is urging governments, donors and civil society partners to strengthen efforts to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. These efforts should include increasing investment in services for mothers, equipping health and nutrition workers with the education, training and skills needed to provide practical breastfeeding support … and implementing family-friendly policies so that mothers have the time and space they need to breastfeed – no matter where they are.”

The Fourth World Breastfeeding conference brings together all supporting partners concerned about maternal and child health and nutrition. It is worth mentioning that, UNICEF is supporting the attendance of 100 Egyptian advocates of breastfeeding and decision makers from both government and civil society during the conference to support raising the capacity of health care workers and to help mothers breastfeed their children.

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