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Zimbabwe, 18 August 2015: World Breastfeeding Week

© UNICEF 2015
Breastfeeding is the most cost-effective intervention to provide nutrients to a child.

By Reshmi Majumdar

18 August 2015, HARARE, Zimbabwe – World Breastfeeding Week for Zimbabwe was lunched on August 7, at Lafarge Cement Stadium in Harare under the theme “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s make it work.” The launch was officially opened by the Minister of Health and Child Care, Honourable Dr. David Parirenyatwa.

Globally there are approximately 830 million female workers with an increased number are in developed countries such as Zimbabwe. Many of them return to work soon after delivering babies, hence they need supportive national polices and legislation — paid maternity leave and breastfeeding breaks — to enable them to continue breastfeeding.

In Zimbabwe, there are a significant number of women working in the informal, seasonal or part-time economy who face even greater barriers to breastfeeding. They need strong family and community support to manage the demands of work and breastfeeding their babies.

According to a World Health Organisation report “many mothers who return to work abandon breastfeeding partially or completely because they do not have sufficient time, or a place to breastfeed, express and store their milk”. It adds that mothers “need a safe, clean and private place in or near their workplace to continue breastfeeding.”

During the launch, Dr. Parirenyatwa, said with the high levels of literacy, it is very easy to disseminate the benefits of breastfeeding in Zimbabwe adding that the Government of Zimbabwe supports women in the national economy.

“With the high levels of literacy in Zimbabwe at 97 per cent it is easy to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children. I would like to congratulate Lafarge for its efforts to establish an environment that is conducive to breastfeeding at the workplace.

“We need to galvanize the multi-dimensional support to improve the balance between breastfeeding and work. Everyone including employers of big companies, farmworkers, and laborers should be made aware of the importance of breastfeeding and child survival,” said Dr. Parirenyatwa.

The Health Minister also noted the need to relook at labour laws in-order to ensure that it allows mothers the role to breastfeed their children while keeping their jobs.

“We need to look at our legislation. The International Labour Organization regulations should be ratified and implemented into our legislation properly so that it captures the roles that women play in taking care of children.”

Speaking at the same event, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative Dr. Jane Muita emphasized the importance of supporting working mothers to breastfeed.

“Women working in informal, seasonal and part-time economy are often vulnerable and face greater barriers to breastfeeding and are usually excluded from protection. We need not forget women in agriculture whose children also need optimum milk from their mother.

“Breastfeeding is the most cost-effective intervention to provide nutrients to a child. If breastfeeding does not become exclusive for babies from 0 to 6 months, then it just becomes “tokenism” for children’s growth,” said Dr. Muita.

The UNICEF Deputy Representative urged communities to address the bottlenecks at household level that hinder the uptake of breastfeeding especially among rural women in Zimbabwe. “We are working with the Ministry of Health to capacitate men and women to support breastfeeding and do away with the misconceptions associated with it.”

Lafarge, is among the few corporates in Zimbabwe that provides a conducive environment for both mother and baby as they have set up a lactating room with the help of the Ministry of Health’s nutrition department.

Lafarge’s human resources director Precious Murena said: “The room has a seat that a breastfeeding mother can sit on while expressing or breastfeeding and a fridge with lockable cages for mothers to store their milk safely without fear.

“It also has a sink to wash hands and a telephone a mother can use to call home to find out how her little one is while she is at work.”

 

 
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