The Minister of Health and Population, Khumbize Kandodo Chiponda, has said the effects of the Coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic have negatively affected lactating mothers and their infants, as mothers were forced to divert their attention and resources towards addressing the economic effects of the pandemic instead of concentrating on the wellbeing of the little ones.
Chiponda has since called for what she termed as ‘shared responsibility in informing, anchoring, engaging and galvanising actions aimed at protecting and supporting breastfeeding in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’.
The minister made the sentiments on Friday Lilongwe at the national launch of the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week, which begins on 1st August.
The theme for the 2021 World Breastfeeding week is: Protect Breastfeeding: A shared Responsibility.
According to the ministry, this year’s breastfeeding week is full of activities aimed at, among others, informing the public about the importance of protecting breastfeeding, anchoring breastfeeding support as a vital public health responsibility, engaging with individuals and organizations for greater impact and galvanising action on protecting breastfeeding to improve public health.
Chiponda said the incoming week is indeed a time for everyone to reflect on the fact that ‘sub-optimal breastfeeding practices’ are a public health concern, requiring concerted efforts and investments at all levels.
“In fact, the theme is very important to Malawi because the Covid-19 pandemic is hindering the provision and use of child and maternal services. But despite COVID- 19, It is important to realise that in any journey, it is the first step that counts. Therefore, breastfeeding is the first practical step we can take to promote and protect the health of babies and mothers. Breastfeeding is the foundation of life and contributes to short and long-term health, optimal nutrition and food security for the baby during emergency and non-emergency situations,” said Chiponda.
According to the minister, the World Health Organization came up with recommendations on breastfeeding during covid 19 which provide guidance that mothers with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 should be encouraged to initiate and continue to breastfeeding, remain with their infants and practice skin-to-skin contact for the benefit of both the mother and the baby.
“This, therefore, calls for a shared responsibility to support mothers, fathers and family members in order to achieve this. Breastfeeding is a human right issue that needs to be respected, protected and fulfilled for child survival and development. Breast milk is cheap, accessible, safe and readily available for the child regardless of a family’s economic status whether poor or rich,” she said.
Chiponda then appealed to all health workers and service providers that, as the nation commemorates the breastfeeding week, they should, among other things, do the following;
Raise awareness on the risks of artificial feeding; create time and space to support women to exclusively breastfeed their children in the first six months of life and support women to continue breastfeeding their children while giving appropriate complementary foods after 6 months until two years or beyond.
“If we all do this, we will ensure that our children are growing in a safe environment and develop to their full potential and become productive citizens,” Chiponda said.
And in her remarks, the Country Director for Health Policy Plus Project, Olive Mtema, observed that modernisation is another factor that impinge on breastfeeding besides Covid-19.
However, Mtema, whose project supports the Department of Nutrition to make hospitals become baby friendly to promote breastfeeding among women, said they are working hard to address the challenge.
“Due to modernisation, the younger women tend not to breastfeed exclusively. We, therefore, need to invigorate the breastfeeding culture among the younger women for it is very important. Breast milk is like immunization to the child,” she said.
The World Breastfeeding Week, which is actually the first week of August, was set aside globally by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) which was formed in 1991 to act on the Innocent Declaration (1990) in order to promote, protect and support breastfeeding as the natural and best way of feeding infants and young children.
This is reportedly one of the strategies for unifying the promotion of breastfeeding globally.
The week is set aside to cerebrate breastfeeding with a theme deliberately chosen to draw the attention of caregivers, communities, service providers and the general public on the recommended infant and young child feeding practices that are vital in improving child survival, growth, and development.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :