Rwandan mothers best in breastfeeding- report – UMUSEKE – News indeed
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A children organisation has singled out Rwanda as the leading country in exclusive breastfeeding of infants on the continent drastically reducing child deaths.

A mother breast feeding her baby
A mother breast feeding her baby

Save the Children, an NGO that deals with children welfare, notes in a report that up to 95 babies could be saved every hour if new mothers breastfed immediately after giving birth, a report from the aid agency stated.

The report, Superfood for Babies, said that if babies receive colostrum the mother’s first milk within an hour of birth, it will kickstart the child’s immune system, making them three times more likely to survive.

“Mothers should breastfeed for at least six months, which ensures that a child growing up in the developing world is 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea,” says the report.

Many governments across East Africa have shown determination to increase breastfeeding rates. Countries like Rwanda where 85 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months have shown success is possible.

Vital nutrients

In Kenya only 32 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed for the first six months meaning that too many children are missing out on vital nutrients they need in the first months of life, the NGO notes.

As UNICEF’s recent State of the World’s Children report shows breastfeeding rates across the region vary – with exclusive breastfeeding rates at 69 per cent in Burundi, 62 per cent in Uganda, 52 per cent in Ethiopia and Tanzania with 50 per cent.

 According to Save the Children East Africa Regional Director Hussein Halane, an estimated 3.1 million children die from malnutrition each year.

He said that despite significant progress in reducing child mortality, one in nine children in Africa still do not live to see their fifth birthday.

“Breastfeeding is not only crucial for tackling malnutrition and saving children’s lives, it also has the potential to have tangible impacts on the economic and social development of countries across Africa,” he said.

Malnutrition can undermine future earning potential by as much as 20 per cent and can inhibit growth of GDP by as much as 2-3 per cent.

If the trend is not checked, the levels of malnutrition could knock $125bn off the global economy by 2030, when the affected children reach working age, it states.

According to Save the Children, there is need to ensure that women have the support they need to breastfeed and overcome the main barriers preventing them from doing so.

The barriers include community and cultural practices which discourage women from breastfeeding, severe shortages of midwives and health workers meaning that too often the opportunity for new mothers to be supported to breastfeed in the first few hours is lost, lack of adequate maternity legislation and marketing practices by some breast milk substitute companies leading to infant formula being used unnecessarily and improperly, ultimately putting children at risk.

“Tackling these barriers demands a new and concerted effort from many different groups of people; governments, local communities and business.

“For example, governments and local communities need to take action to empower women to make their own decisions about breastfeeding, governments need to invest in strengthening health systems to protect, promote and support breastfeeding and introduce nationwide breastfeeding-friendly policies and legislation,”  says Mr Halane.

Daily Nation

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