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Towards a healthier future: Kamola Salikhova, Republican Center for Pediatrics

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05 August 2016
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Dr. Kamola Salikhova, Deputy Director of the Republican Center for Pediatrics.As the National Coordinator of the Breastfeeding Programme, Dr. Salikhovatrains healthcare professionals on the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices.Today, Dr. Salikhovashares her views on the importance of promoting breastfeeding.

1. What is the situation with regards to the practice of exclusive breastfeeding in Uzbekistan? What are the challenges and how can we overcome them?

An analysis of the breastfeeding dynamics for the period of 1996-2015, according to the official statistics shows that the breastfeeding rates in Uzbekistan were low in the past. However, in recent years there has been a trend for breastfeeding rateto improve. The share of exclusively breastfed children under the age of 6 months has increased from 27.6% in 1999 to 50.3% in 2015, according to the State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan. It means that only half of the infants across the nation benefit from this practice, and we have a lot to accomplish.

Breastfeeding rates largely determine the health of women and children.

A key element in the protection and support of breastfeeding is introducing a change in the current practices at obstetrics and childhood institutions that hinder breastfeeding practices. The challenges to improving the breastfeeding rates come from the advertising of the milk substitute formulas. Low awareness amongst mothers and family members also contributes to this prevailing trend.

Medical institutions, obstetricians and pediatricians should pay more attention to this important issue as it saves lives of children.

The Government of Uzbekistan implements modern and cost efficient perinatal programmes such as the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative designed by the World Health Organization (WHO)and UNICEF that encourage perinatal institutions and maternities to introduce the recommended steps for the IYCF.

2. Why should exclusive breastfeeding be important to not only the mother and child, but also to society and the country as a whole?

Healthy nutrition is one of the most important conditions to ensure the optimal development of the child, both physical and intellectual. It also builds infant's immunity to infections. Children who are breastfed are less likely to suffer from diseases such as diarrhea, and various respiratory infections, and allergic reactions. Breast milk boosts children's IQ level by ten points when compared to those fed with the formula. Infants who receive a sufficient amount of breast milk are less likely to suffer colic ailments; they have fewer bowel movement problems or food allergies.

Breastfeeding also improves the mother's health. It contributes to rapid recovery after childbirth, and the risk of breast related problems decreases. Breastfeeding prevents cancer of various types and reduces the risk of osteoporosis in the future, as the mother's bones become stronger during lactation process. A breastfeeding mother experiences truly unique positive emotions and creates a strong bond with her baby.

Last but not least, breastfeeding is free, and it saves time required for preparing and sterilizing bottles and pacifiers; it saves on the family budget.

We now know that in regions where the breastfeeding promotion programmeshave been successfully implemented, thechildren’s health status in the first year of life has significantly improved. There is a correlation between the breastfeeding rate and the incidence of diseases like infectious and parasitic diseases, intestinal infections; eating disorders, diseases of the digestive and urogenital system. All of this contributes to reduction inthe infant and child morbidity and mortality rate.

3.  Could you please tell us about the collaboration between UNICEF and the Ministry of Health on the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is potentially a significant contributor to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. The Ministry of Health and UNICEF have been carrying out joint activities in the framework of the breastfeeding programme, both in specialized medical institutions and among the population. Activities are organized to improve the capacity of health workers, and a lot of work is done to maintain and promote breastfeeding.

Currently, breastfeeding promotion work in the country has become more coordinated and targeted. A working group was set up by the Ministry of Health to promote breastfeeding practices with the assistance of regional coordinators. We are committed to implementing the good breastfeeding principles as recommended by UNICEF and WHO.

In the framework of the Project "Improvement of Mother and Child Health Services" co-financed by the European Union, more than 2,638 health professionals have been trained on the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, and 5,788 health workers have been trained in the out-patient care. An assessment has shown an improvementin the health specialists' knowledge on breastfeeding from 44% to 91%.

We are committed toa continued collaboration with UNICEF to improve the quality of health services for the benefit of all children in Uzbekistan.

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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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