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Unicef marks international breastfeeding week

03:41 AM August 06, 2011

Unicef (United Nations Children’s Fund), with its global partners, is marking World Breastfeeding Week with a call for the benefits of breastfeeding to be broadcast beyond clinics and delivery rooms to the public at large, particularly to young people.

Breastfeeding is directly linked to reducing the death toll of children under five, yet only 36 percent of infants under six months old in developing countries are exclusively breastfed.

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In the Philippines, only 34 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months, and the number drops to 2 percent at one year. One of the reasons is the lack of a strong enabling environment that supports breastfeeding mothers.

“With so much at stake, we need to do more to reach women with a simple, powerful message: Breastfeeding can save your baby’s life,” Unicef executive director Anthony Lake said.

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“No other preventive intervention is more cost-effective in reducing the number of children who die before reaching their fifth birthday,” Lake said.

Scientific evidence has shown that breastfeeding could lead to a 13-percent reduction in deaths of children under five if infants were exclusively breastfed for six months and continued to be breastfed up to two years.

Breastfeeding also plays an important role in preventing stunting (low height for age), a condition that can cause irreversible physical and cognitive damage, and which is viewed as a key indicator reflecting inequities in society.

Unicef is firmly supporting all efforts to accelerate comprehensive action to improve breastfeeding rates globally, in every country and with a particular focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and hard to reach populations.

“Breastfed is best-fed, whether the baby is born in Uganda or England, the Philippines or Canada,” Lake said.

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TAGS: Health, Unicef, United Nations Children’s Fund, World Breastfeeding Week
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