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At a glance: Syrian Arab Republic

Promoting breastfeeding remains a top health priority in Syria

By Rob Sixsmith

LATAKIA, Syrian Arab Republic, 21 October 2010 – Syrian mother Jenna Mouna is well aware of the benefits of breastfeeding her newborn. Having given birth in a UNICEF-supported baby-friendly hospital, she’s being well taken care of by healthcare workers trained in a 10-step programme designed to promote breastfeeding.

VIDEO: UNICEF's Rob Sixsmith reports on programmes working to educate Syrian mothers about the importance of breastfeeding.  Watch in RealPlayer


“Everyone has been emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding,” said Ms. Mouna. “I was really surprised with its protective power against diarrhoea and the nutrient elements that [breastmilk] contains ... for the mother, it helps bring the womb back to its natural shape,” she added.

The first year of life is absolutely crucial to the development of healthy children – and proper breastfeeding is an essential component of that year.

Health workers’ vital role

Breastfeeding provides essential nutrients and protects both mothers and children from diseases like pneumonia. The simple act of breastfeeding, if practiced regularly, will be instrumental in the fulfilment of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 – to vastly reduce child mortality and improve maternal health by the year 2015.

As part of this year’s Breastfeeding Week, held in August, UNICEF and the Syrian Ministry of Health stressed the vital role that health workers play in promoting the practice in Syria.

© UNICEF/2010/Syria
Correct breasting is an essential component to the healthy development of children.

Inside a hospital here in Latakia, Syria, the importance of breastfeeding – and a sense of just how delicate child health can be – is immediately obvious. In one room, a healthy newborn awaits his mother while next door, incubators house premature babies.

Promoting breastfeeding

“From some women there is resistance to the idea of breastfeeding,” said Randa Noumaan, a nurse at Latakia’s hospital. For this reason, she added, it is crucial that the hospital’s entire nursing and midwifery staff explain the importance of the practice to new mothers.

“We really rely on the nurses to remind the mothers of the first time to breastfeed – which is basically 30 minutes after birth,” said Ms. Noumaan.

© UNICEF/2010/Syria
A nurse hold a baby in Latakia, Syria, as colleagues standby.

This summer’s International Breastfeeding Week has been running since 1992 and now boasts the cooperation of over 170 countries. In Syria, a wide dedication to the aims of the campaign was clear. Seminars scheduled across the country promoted breastfeeding as a health priority. Health workers also received sessions focused on the 10 steps required to ensure that a hospital is baby friendly.

During Breastfeeding Week and beyond, UNICEF has continued to focus on promoting the practice and the pivotal role it plays in the development of healthy children worldwide.



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