UNICEF Malawi Representative Johannes Wedenig
By Harold Kapindu
As Malawi joins the international community in commemorating World Breastfeeding Week which falls on 1st to 7th August, it has been revealed that 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).
About 78 million babies globally, or 3 in 5 are not breastfed within the first hour of life, putting them at higher risk of death and disease and making them less likely to continue breastfeeding.
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.
Wedenig said breastfeeding can bolster brain development, therefore family members, health care workers, employers and governments must support mothers to give their children the start they deserve.
“Breastfeeding keeps babies healthy in their first days and the benefits last well into adulthood. Babies are at greater risk of death due to diarrhoea and other infections when they are only partially breastfed or not breastfed at all. Between six months and two years old children must continue to get breast milk, along with other age-appropriate foods,” Wedenig added.
But, 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.
Breastfeeding rates within the first hour after birth are highest in Eastern and Southern Africa with 65 percent and the lowest in East Asia and the Pacific with 32 percent.
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.
With 130,000 participants called U-Reporters from across Malawi, the platform allows young people to share their views through regular opinion polling.
Tags: unicef u report world breast feeding week