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World Breastfeeding Week in SUN Movement Countries in Eastern and Southern Africa

  |   SUN Civil Society Network, SUN Country Network, SUN Donor Network, SUN UN Network

© UNICEF UN0123364 Nakibuuka

BREASTFEEDING: Foundation of Life

World Breastfeeding Week helps raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.  Why? Because breastfeeding is a universal solution that levels the playing field, giving everyone a fair start in life. It improves the health, wellbeing and survival of women and children around the world.

 Kenya and Swaziland have seen an average annual increase in exclusive breastfeeding of more than 10 per cent. And, in 2017, Rwanda and Zambia could boast exclusive breastfeeding rates of 87.3 per cent and 72.5 per cent, respectively.



The Ministry of Health unveiled plans for milk banks for orphaned infants. Veronica Kirogo, the deputy director Nutrition and Dietetics Services, said this will ensure the infants undergo the required 6-month exclusive breastfeeding. “Just like blood banks, milk banks will require that mothers press milk which will be safely stored and given to infants without mothers.” She said this will help caregivers of the orphaned babies save money that they would otherwise use in hospital when children fall ill. “In addition, children who are fed on breast milk for the first six months tend to have a higher IQ than those who don’t,” Kirogo said.

The government of Kenya is committed to scaling up exclusive breastfeeding from the current 61 per cent to 90 per cent, a Ministry of Health official has said. “Kenya has made significant strides in doubling the number of babies being exclusively breastfed from 32 per cent in 2008 to 61 per cent, but more needs to be done to ensure that all babies take nothing but breast milk for the first six months of life,” said Deputy Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Gladys Mugambi.

Efforts to address breastfeeding challenges for working mothers saw the Health Act amended to include a clause the stipulates that every organisation with more than 30 employees must have a lactation station for mothers. “We are preparing guidelines for the implementation of the Act. As soon as they are complete we will roll out preparation of the lactation facilities in all national government offices. We will also work with county governments to ensure they implement the rule,” said Ms Mugambi.


Source: Nigeria Health Watch

The Nigerian Minister of Health, Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal, formally opened the country’s activities commemorating World Breastfeeding Week with a call for more support and empowerment for mothers to encourage breastfeeding. Noting its benefits he said, ‘the first suckle marks the beginning of the human stimuli and response process that is important for the survival and development of every human being’ adding that ‘breastfeeding enables babies to exhibit remarkable capabilities that last a lifetime’.

UNICEF Nigeria deputy country representative, Pernille Ironside, said for the country to effectively scale up exclusive breastfeeding, it needs to engage in programmes that will support exclusive breast feeding: “We need to encourage the mothers by saving the lives of the mothers and the children. We will ensure that all reproductive women of childbearing age will support their children by breastfeeding for a period of two years”.

As breastfeeding week takes off in Nigeria, the message to everyone is ‘support the mothers’ and the message to all mothers – captured so tunefully by the singers in the audience was – ‘Mother give me your breastmilk, if you give me your breastmilk I will grow up to be strong’.


“Babies who are properly breastfed can grow up to be healthy and strong like Olympic athletes”. That’s the message Queen Masenate Mohato Seeiso of Lesotho delivered to families across the country last month to mark World Breastfeeding Week and its theme, “Mother Support: Going for the Gold.” The queen’s message was backed by the Infant and Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) project, an initiative funded by the US Agency for International Development and led by PATH, with partners CARE, the Manoff Group, and University Research Corporation.

The IYCN project aims to improve nutrition for women, infants, and young children. Working with Lesotho’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MOH/SW), the IYCN project helped the queen convey the importance of breastmilk to close a week-long campaign promoting breastfeeding across the country. During World Breastfeeding Week, the IYCN project worked closely with the MOH/SW, breastfeeding advocates, and local groups to help communities learn more about breastfeeding and child nutrition.


Paul Kaggwa, the Acting Commissioner Health Services, advised Ugandans during the World Breastfeeding Week (August 2-7) to know their rights and fight for them: “This is why Parliament wants to increase the number of days for maternity and paternity leave. Maternity leave is a right. It’s not your boss to decide for you, like have a week or a month. If he refuses, you can sue him” , he said.

Brenda Kaijuka Muwanga, the Nutrition Specialist at UNICEF, said, the fear of mother to child transmission of HIV is no longer an issue as long as mothers breastfeed exclusively as per World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines. She said, according to the current report on exclusive breastfeeding in East Africa, Rwanda stands head and shoulders above her neighbours at 87 per cent, followed by Burundi at 69 per cent, Uganda at 63 per cent, Tanzania at 42 per cent and Kenya at 32 per cent.

“Rwanda is the best in exclusive breasting at six months because of their serious sensitization through community health programmes and government commitment on the importance of breast feeding,” she said.




The Ministry of Health managed the celebration for the World Breastfeeding week in coordination with the UNICEF country office, that has been working in the past years with the Government to adopt the international code of marketing breast milk substitutes to protect breastfeeding. According to the information presented to the Media by the Ministry, breastfeeding has been a good culture in Ethiopia where about 96 percent of Ethiopian mothers feed breast to their children; but many do not keep on the principle to provide breastfeeding for children at least for six months. However, only 58 percent of mothers are aware of the significance of breastfeeding for children till six months without any additional food and water.


In an event to celebrate WBW2018, organized by the Tanzanian Nutrition Centre, the UNICEF Representative in the country, Ms Maniza Zaman, urged the government to increase domestic funding in efforts to promote optimal breastfeeding practices in Tanzania. Minister for Health, Community development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Ummy Mwalimu, announced that “the government is planning to deploy community health workers countrywide in efforts to promoting and enhancing optimal breastfeeding practices among the new mothers”. According to the statistics availed by the minister, in Tanzania at least 97 per cent of new mothers were breastfeeding.


The Zimbabwe Civil Society Organisations Scaling up Nutrition Alliance (ZCSOSUNA), called to promote breastfeeding and highlighted the importance of breastfeeding: “The 2018 WBW celebrations calls for all countries to promote, protect and support breastfeeding of infants and young children. WBW commemorations are aimed at highlighting the huge benefits that breastfeeding can bring to the health and welfare of babies, as well as a wider push for maternal health, focusing on good nutrition, poverty reduction and food security”.


In Malawi, UNICEF conducted a poll on its U-Report SMS polling platform to assess the knowledge and opinions of young people around breastfeeding: 96 percent of U-Reporters say breastfeeding is important for children to survive and be healthy but only 57 percent know that children should be breastfed until the age of two. And, according to the Demographic and Health Survey data, the proportion of children who are breastfed decreases with increasing child age from 91 percent among children age 12 to 17 months to 77 percent among children aged 18 to 23 months.

Commenting on the UNICEF and WHO recently released report, UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig said breastfeeding gives every child the healthiest start to life, saying it is a baby’s first vaccine and the best source of nutrition. However, the number of children who are exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months has gone down in the country. The number has decreased from 71 percent in 2011 to 61 percent in the 2016 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS).


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