Press Centre 2003/10/07: Exclusive Breastfeeding

Exclusive Breastfeeding During the First Six Months of Life

Exclusive Breastfeeding during the First Six Months logo © UNICEF Turkey 2003

The logo of the campaign to promote Exclusive Breastfeeding during the First Six Months

For Healthier Infants

At the end of the first year, some 240,000 babies will have been supported in survival and healthier life

İstanbul, Turkey, 7 October 2003 -- The ‘Exclusive Breastfeeding for the First 6 Months’ campaign, launched jointly by the Ministry of Health (MOH), UNICEF and Turquaz with the aim of improving infant survival rates and child health throughout the country was presented to the public with a press conference involving Professor Necdet Ünüvar, Undersecretary of the MOH; Edmond McLoughney, UNICEF Representative in Turkey and Ahmet Burak, Coca-Cola Director General in Turkey.

During the campaign, efforts will be made to inform health workers and prospective mothers about breastmilk as a vital nutrient for newborns, promote breastfeeding through trainings at various levels and to increase the number of baby-friendly hospitals. These efforts will be supported by a promotional documentary with voluntary appearance by celebrities including Hülya Koçyiğit and Berna Laçin as well as by posters and advertisements. The first year of the campaign will cover the provinces of İstanbul and Diyarbakır where 240,000 babies are born each year.

Speaking at the press conference, MOH Undersecretary Professor Necdet Ünüvar pointed out that each year 1.5 million babies are born in Turkey and the proportion of those exclusively breastfed for the first six months is much lower than world averages.

While informing the audience about the campaign work carried out in İstanbul and Diyarbakır, UNICEF Representative Edmond McLoughney stated that hundreds of health workers and thousands of mothers were to be trained and informed within the year ahead as a way to reach tens of thousands of newborns.

Coca-Cola Director Ahmet Burak said that the company’s aim in the campaign was to contribute to the better health of children in Turkey and expressed his confidence in the success of the campaign by underlining the partnership with UNICEF and the MOH:

With two such prominent agencies as the Ministry of Health and UNICEF working together, the success of this campaign is assured. It is in our hands to change this world for the better; only if we can mobilize our powers and capacities in a way to contribute more to our societies.

Campaign Targets

The campaign will start in the provinces of İstanbul and Diyarbakır where 240,000 children are born each year and expanded gradually to cover other provinces.

The basic objectives of the campaign ‘Exclusive Breastfeeding for the First Six Months’ include the training of health workers as well as new and expectant mothers about the importance of breastfeeding, increasing the number of baby-friendly hospitals and provinces, ensuring that all hospitals with maternity wards in İstanbul and Diyarbakır are qualified for baby-friendly status and both provinces become baby friendly.

Targets for İstanbul

Ensuring that all MOH hospitals with maternity wards receive their ‘Baby-friendly’ certificate and that close to 100% of all other facilities including university and private hospitals as well as SSK hospitals reach the same status.

Targets for Diyarbakır

The province of Diyarbakır has no baby-friendly hospital for the time being. The aim is to convert the Maternity Hospital, Child Hospital, SSK Hospital and University Hospital in this province into child-friendly hospital as the major activity of the campaign.

Formation of Mothers’ Support Groups

The plan is to reach and cover 50,000 birth-giving mothers in İstanbul and Diyarbakır within the first year of the campaign to train and support them as well as their helpers in breastfeeding.

Breastmilk: A right for all infants

As stated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) breastmilk is the undeniable right of all newborns. In Turkey, however, the duration of breastfeeding is not as long as it should be due to some social, economic and cultural reasons.

According to the 1998 Turkey Demographic and Health Survey (TDHS) only 1.3% of all newborns are exclusively breastfed for the first six months while the world average is around 39%.

Rates of mortality are 4.6 times greater among infants not breastfed compared to others. According to the findings of a WHO survey, 1.5 million infant deaths would have been avoided a year only if the rates of breastfeeding were higher than they are now. In Turkey too, survival of thousands of infants can be safeguarded by exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.

The first step for an infant’s healthy start in life and later development is exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months following birth and continuation of breastfeeding until the age of two and beyond with the introduction of supplementary food after the first six months.

For more information:

Dr Dilek Haznedaroğlu, Ministry of Health,
General Directorate of MCH-FP
Department of Adolescent and Child Health
+90 (0)312 431 48 31

Sema Hosta, Communication Officer, UNICEF Turkey
+90 (0)533 622 83 46

Ebru Bakkaloğlu, Public Relations Director,
+90 (0)216 556 20 54

Dilge Bayer, Media House Communication
+90 (0)212 351 91 81

Read more about Exclusive Breastfeeding During the First Six Months in Programmes 2001-2005. There is more information about the campaign to promote ‘Exclusive Breastfeeding During the First Six Months’ in the Autumn 2003 issue of Say Yes, the quarterly newsletter of UNICEF Turkey.

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