Its another World Breastfeeding Week and a time to take a look at how much moms and babies have faired in advancing cause of exclusivity in breastfeeding.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with Global Breastfeeding Collective in a joint report titled: The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard noted that, in spite of concerted efforts to actively involve every mother in excusively breastfeeding all newborn for six months, no country in the world has completely met the set standards.
According to the facts from the Scorecard, of the 194 nations that were evaluated, only 40 out of every 100 children below the age of six months are exclusively breastfed and only 23 countries recorded 60 percent.
The report showed evidentially that investing as little as $4.70 on every newborn could within eight years, 2025, yield econimc gains of about $300bn.
According to the Director General, WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom in his message to mark the world breastfeeding week WBFW,noted, “Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life”.
Adhanom pointed out, “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive”.
Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
The scorecard was released at the start of WBFW alongside a new analysis demonstrating that an annual investment of only US$4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.
Nurturing the Health and Wealth of Nations: The Investment Case for Breastfeeding, suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate US$300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.
In the words of the UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, “Breastfeeding is one of the most effective – and cost effective – investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies.
“By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies – and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity”, said Lake.
The investment case shows that in five of the world’s largest emerging economies—China, India, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria—the lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year and US$119 billion in economic losses.
Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower- and middle-income countries spend approximately US$250 million on breastfeeding programs; and donors provide only an additional US$85 million.
The Global Breastfeeding Collective Initiative is therefore calling on countries to among other choices: Increase funding to raise breastfeeding rates from birth through two years., Fully implement the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions through strong legal measures that are enforced and independently monitored by organizations free from conflicts of interest and the enactment of paid family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies, building on the International Labour Organization’s mateitrnity protection guidelines as a minimum requirement, including provisions for the informal sector.
The Collective intiative is also calling for the renewed implementation of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding in maternity facilities, including providing breastmilk for sick and vulnerable newborns, Improvement in access to skilled breastfeeding counselling as part of comprehensive breastfeeding policies and programmes in health facilities, Strengthen links between health facilities and communities, and encourage community networks that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding as well as strengthen monitoring systems that track the progress of policies, programmes, and funding towards achieving both national and global breastfeeding targets.
Breastfeeding has been proven to be critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals. It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4). Breastfeeding is also an enabler to ending poverty, promoting economic growth and reducing inequalities.