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Breastfeeding saves lives

Calling on governments to promote and protect not only early and exclusive breastfeeding, but also complementary feeding practices, UNICEF joined Iran’s Ministry of Health, NGOs and Shahid Beheshti Medical University today to launch the start of World Breastfeeding Week.

This year’s theme – Breastfeeding and Family Foods: Loving and Healthy - underscores the importance of complementary feeding after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding.

“Exclusive breastfeeding together with improved complementary feeding practices could reduce the number of children under five who die from malnutrition – that’s far more than any other intervention,” says Ruchira Gupta, UNICEF Programme Communication Officer in Tehran.

Malnutrition is associated with more than 50% of deaths among children under five globally.

“According to best evidence, together these two improvements in nutrition and childcare could save more than 5000 lives each and every day,” Ms Gupta added.

Breastfeeding alone provides ideal nutrition and health protection for infants for the first six months of life as it gives all the nutrients, antibodies, hormones, immune factors and antioxidants an infant needs to thrive. It protects babies from diarrhea and acute respiratory infections and stimulates their immune systems.

In Iran, statistics show that almost half of all children are weaned off exclusive breastfeeding before the age of four months. This pattern is observed with equal frequency in both rural and urban areas, although in some areas – namely Sistan and Baluchistan and Hormozgan - the figures are worse. According to the latest data, only 24.4% and 38.8% respectively of women exclusively fed their babies in the first six months.

For this reason, UNICEF, in partnership with the Ministry of Health is supporting the promotion of awareness raising and training on exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and of the continuation of semi-exclusive breastfeeding for up to 2 years in the three disparity provinces – Sistan and Baluchistan, Hormozgan and West Azerbaijan.

Breastfeeding together with complementary feeding is one of the most effective cross-cutting components that helps to achieve all eight of the Millennium Development Goals in reducing poverty, hunger and malnutrition.



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