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World Breastfeeding Week 2012

As the world celebrates the 20th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7
August, 2012, UNICEF is proud to support the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
(WABA), and join the World Health Organisation and NGO partners to highlight the critical
role of breastfeeding in child survival, growth and development.

Despite compelling evidence on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and
sustained efforts to encourage it, progress is patchy. Global rates of exclusive breastfeeding
for infants under six months of age crept from 32 per cent to 39 per cent between 1995 and
2010. In most of the ten countries where two thirds of children are not exclusively breastfed,
rates have barely improved.

There is some good news. Data from 90 developing countries shows that in over half,
exclusive breastfeeding is increasing -- despite the fact that many of these nations face
significant development challenges and emergencies. This success is due to a combination of
strong government leadership, comprehensive programmes, community engagement, and
broad partnerships.

To build on this success and achieve results for infants and young children, especially
the hardest to reach, we must better monitor our progress. This echoes the theme of this
year’s World Breastfeeding Week: understanding the past, planning for the future. Recently,
UNICEF assessed the scope and scale of programmes for both breastfeeding and
complementary feeding in 65 countries. The absence of effective monitoring systems meant
that most countries were unable to report on the scale and coverage of their Infant and Young
Child Feeding programmes. Going forward, we must better identify the barriers that prevent
widespread breastfeeding; address those obstacles; and track our progress, especially in the
most disadvantaged communities.

World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to renew global focus on the critical role
of breastfeeding in reducing childhood illness and mortality. As we do so, we should recall
the findings of the 2008 Lancet Nutrition Series: that a non-breastfed child is l4 times more
likely to die in the first six months than an exclusively breastfed child. And we should note
that breastfeeding in the first two years of life can also prevent stunting. Compared to their
well-nourished peers, stunted children are inches shorter, more vulnerable to disease, five
times more likely to die from diarrhoea, and never able to reach their full cognitive or eaming



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