UNICEF, in collaboration with World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), WHO, and governments in 120 countries, including The Gambia on Friday, August 1, 2008 kicked-off a week-long celebration of World Breastfeeding. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Mother’s Support Going for Gold”, a calling that appeals for professional informal support for breastfeeding mothers.
Speaking on this year’s theme, Min-Whee Kang, UNICEF country representative said “children that are breastfed stand a better chance of survival and mothers who breastfeed also stand to benefit from reducing the health risks that they face”.
According to the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey (MICS 111), 40 percent of children under six months residing in The Gambia, are breasfed. This study also found that almost half of all mothers in Basse, which is the area were the practice is most common, breastfeed their children, whilst fewer mothers in Banjul, where it is least adopted, only one in five mothers practice breasfeeding.
These disparities, according to reports from UNICEF, the Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey could be due to many factors, but the likelihood of more professional women joining the workforce, spending more time at work and less time at home, may be a factor.
Another factor, reports added, may be attitudinal and in that the drawbacks of modernization have caught up with society, especially in the urban area- where breasfeeding is deemed ‘old’ fashioned, un-cool, and a practice embraced only by the poor. The purchasing of powdered milk for babies is seen as a sign of affluence and class.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life reduces infant mortality linked to common childhood illnesses and under-nutrition. Breastfeeding can reduce the number of deaths caused by acute respiratory infection and diarrhea which are said to be the two major child killers as well as other infectious diseases. It also contributes to the health of mothers, and creates a bond between the mother and child.
Appropriate infant feeding can save lives, ensure optimal growth and development, and contribute to achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
The Banjul UNICEF boss, Ms. Kang, continued that “UNICEF recognizes the importance the Government of The Gambia places on its quest in attaining all the MDGs. In the area of child survival especially, child deaths have been reduced drastically over the past 20 years, from 153 per 1000 children under five in 1990 to 113 per 1000 today.
We must support mothers breastfeeding their children, and encourage others to do the same, and champion the cause for all children and mothers everywhere in The Gambia,” she concluded.