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67 million children

Were not attending primary school in 2011, 53 per cent girls.

World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Calls for Greater Support to Breastfeeding Mothers

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06 August 2013
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Chirchik, Tashkent region, 6 August, 2013. - Health managers, paediatricians, patronage nurses along with representatives of non-governmental organizations and mahalla committees from Tashkent region discussed the importance of breastfeeding for a child and ways to strengthen support to mothers to sustain breastfeeding practices. This meeting is one from the series of events organized by the Ministry of Health with UNICEF support to mark the World Breastfeeding Week 2013.  The week’s activities include roundtables, workshops, and town hall meetings, counselling of families and new mothers, and media mobilization.  

This year's World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is ‘Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers’. It focuses on the role that peer supporters and counsellors can play to provide continued day-to-day support for expecting and breastfeeding mothers within their families and communities.

“There is no other single health intervention that has such a high impact for babies and mothers as breastfeeding and which costs so little for governments. It is a baby’s ‘first immunization’ and the most effective and inexpensive life-saver ever,” said UNICEF Representative Jean-Michel Delmotte. “Yet, in many countries around the world, including Uzbekistan, we witness a sharp decline in exclusive breastfeeding rates and practices once a breastfeeding mother leaves a health facility.  This fact underscores the importance of reaching out to communities and mobilizing family members, friends and peers to support mothers.”

Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life than non-breastfed children. Starting breastfeeding in the first day after birth can reduce the risk of new-born death by up to 45 per cent. Breastfeeding also supports a child’s ability to learn and helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Recent studies in the United States and United Kingdom point to large health care savings resulting from breastfeeding, given that breastfed children fall ill much less often than non-breastfed children.

Mothers who breastfeed exclusively recover faster from giving birth, and return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner. Evidence shows that they experience less post-partum depression and also have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers later in life.

Despite these well documented benefits of breastfeeding, worldwide only 39 per cent of children aged less than six months were exclusively breastfed in 2012. In Uzbekistan, according to the Republican Specialized Scientific Practical Medical Centre of Pediatrics, last year’s coverage of children under six months of age with exclusive breastfeeding was only 35 per cent, though the exclusive breastfeeding rate on discharge from maternities was much higher - over 98 per cent.

“Healthcare professionals have a leading role in encouraging new mothers to breastfeed their newborns soon after birth. However, it is no less important to create a community based support system for breastfeeding mothers. Our experience of involving members of communities, especially mothers, shows that they can effectively complement the efforts of maternity hospitals and support new mothers after delivery so that they continue breastfeed their babies at home. The ultimate goal is to make sure that breastfeeding becomes a norm,” said Ms. Kamola Salihova, National Breastfeeding Programme Manager.  

UNICEF Uzbekistan works with the Ministry of Health and other national partners at all levels to ensure that breastfeeding mothers benefit from the help of skilled health providers and community workers to support them to breastfeed, as well as culturally-sensitive communication, and protective laws and policies, particularly concerning the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

Within the EU co-funded ‘Improvement of Mother and Child Health Services in Uzbekistan’ Project,  support is being currently provided to the Ministry of Health to develop the capacity of more than 2,000 health providers in six regions, including Tashkent region, in breastfeeding promotion and counselling. Innovative household based interventions are also being piloted in two regions to promote breastfeeding, which is a best nurturing start to life for young babies, and other child health care related practices.

For more information, please contact:

Bakhodir Rakhimov, UNICEF Nutrition Officer  Tel: 99871-2339512

Dr. Kamola Salikhova – National BF Progamme Coordinator Tel.: 99871-2294122

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UNICEF is the driving force that helps build a world where the rights of every child are realized. We have the global authority to influence decision-makers, and the variety of partners at grassroots level to turn the most innovative ideas into reality. That makes us unique among world organizations, and unique among those working with the young.

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