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Inter-faith leaders advocate for breastfeeding in Nepal

World Day of Prayer and Action for Children

© UNICEF Nepal/2010
A multi-religious collective of leaders in Nepal join an event at a Hindu ashram marking the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children.

By Ashma Shrestha Basnet

KATHMANDU, Nepal, 29 November 2010 – Marking the recent World Day of Prayer and Action for Children, representatives of various religious faiths joined hands with UNICEF Nepal in advocating better lives for children around the globe.

The observance, which took place in Kathmandu, commenced with an inter-religious prayer event on the eve of the Day of Prayer and the 21st anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It was organized by the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) and was held at a Hindu ashram, Shanti Sewa.

The World Day of Prayer and Action for Children is a global effort mobilizing secular and faith-based organizations to work together for the survival, development, protection and well-being of children – and to highlight the important role that religious communities can play in advancing child rights.

The best start in life

This year, the Day of Prayer focused on promoting maternal health and child survival, with a particular emphasis on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for infants and young children. In a video message, religious leaders sent a message about the importance of breastfeeding in their various faiths.

“Breastfeeding is the best way to start a child’s life on the path of proper nutrition essential to reduce the real problem of undernutrition that causes half of all Nepali children to be stunted,” said UNICEF Representative in Nepal Gillian Mellsop. “It is commendable that the leaders and representatives of all the various religious groups have come together today to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life – and continuous breastfeeding, along with other nutritious food, for the first two years of life.”

© UNICEF Nepal/2010
Former UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam (right) takes part in the World Day of Prayer and Action for Children in Nepal, noting that "UNICEF has a long history of working together with the religious leaders from all faiths."

The leaders also appealed to various other faith-based organizations to join them in raising awareness about issues that affect children’s well-being.

‘Hope for the future’

“UNICEF has a long history of working together with the religious leaders from all faiths on issues that affect them and they have proved to be successful,” said former UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Kul Gautam. “At the heart of every religious tradition is the insight that children are humanity’s best hope for the future, and we really do need to nurture them.”

Added Mr. Gautam: “Breastfeeding rates have been decreasing worldwide, and such is the case in Nepal, as well. So this partnership with the religious leaders has come at a very apt time, and all of us need to work together to combat malnutrition among our children.”

Children on hand at the event shared messages and prayers of good will from their faiths and recited poems on issues that concern them. Eighth-grader Jyotsna Maharjan recited a poem on the importance of education, while her friend Manjaya Maharjan read one entitled, ‘Rise up for children and mothers.’

“All religions advocate for the best interest of humanity,” said Dr. Chintamani Yogi, founding chairperson of Shanti Sewa ashram and GNRC’s country coordinator in Nepal. “We have all come together to fight against humanitarian problems, be it advocating for breastfeeding or any other cause.”



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