While the provincial health department has failed to create awareness about breastfeeding, the World Breastfeeding Week 2012 looks to take charge instead.
The federal government created the ‘Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance’ in 2002 to ensure adequate nutrition for infants and young children by promoting breastfeeding. The ordinance was also aimed to regulate marketing of breast milk substitutes. It was further stated that each province form a committee on this, but officials and local organisations did not take any step in this direction.
However, World Breastfeeding Week 2012, themed ‘Understanding the past, planning the future’, kicked off across the province on Monday. Throughout the week, the provincial health department and partner organisations will conduct advocacy programmes in Jalozai and Togh Sarai camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), run campaigns across different media platforms and conduct workshops at teaching hospitals.
At a seminar, UNICEF health and nutrition specialist Dr Abdul Jamil said that special programmes will be conducted in 13 districts of the province, where female health workers will go to houses and create awareness for mothers. Dr Jamil explained that breastfeeding for the first six months after birth directly increases a child’s immunity level. Data suggests that 60% of children in the province are not breastfed properly.
According to the 2008 National Nutrition Survey, 17% children in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) were malnourished and 47% of people in the province were undersized due to a lack of proper nutrition.
The awareness programmes will be conducted in Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Kohistan, Bunir, Mardan, Charsadda, Peshawar, Swabi, Hangu, DI Khan, Lakki Marwat, Nowshera and Swat.
“The surfacing of new polio cases shows that children who are not breastfed have low immunity levels, making them more susceptible to diseases,” said Dr Jan Baz Afridi, deputy director of the Expanded Programme for Immunisation in K-P said.
Mother and New Born Child Health Provincial Coordinator Dr Khyal Afridi said clinics have been established inside houses for midwives. However, he declined to comment on the absence of the breastfeeding committee for K-P.
The UNICEF World’s Children Report 2011 states that out of 136.7 million babies born worldwide, only 32.6% were breastfed exclusively in their first six months. Despite compelling evidence about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding* and sustained efforts to encourage it, progress remains patchy. Global rates for exclusive breastfeeding for infants under six months crept up from 32% in 1995 to 39% in 2010.
The situation is not that different for Pakistan. Exclusive breastfeeding rates increased from 26% in 1995 to 36% in 2006-07, indicating only a slight improvement.
Each year, Pakistan witnesses preventable deaths of 432,000 children under five years of age. In K-P alone, 100 out of every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday. Of these, 76% die in this first year of life due to preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2012.
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