The federal health ministry in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is formulating a national communication strategy to promote breastfeeding practices among new mothers.
Dr Baseer Khan Achakzai, director nutrition wing, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulation and Coordination (NHSRC) said currently in Pakistan the numbers are alarming. Breastfeeding rate is at a dismal 38 percent and bottle feeding is 41 percent which is worrisome.
To secure the health of our future generation it has been decided to formulate a communication strategy to increase awareness among young mothers of the benefits of breastfeeding. This was disclosed by Dr Achakzai in an exclusive interview to The Express Tribune.
He said doctors, pediatricians and all medical staff at obstetrics and gynecology departments will be trained to counsel young mothers of the importance of breastfeeding till their newborn gets two years old.
“It is a fact that in Pakistan healthcare providers do not have time to counsel new mothers. Unfortunately some of the healthcare providers are not aware that as soon as a baby is born he/she should be put on breastfeeding,” he said.
Achakzai said Pakistan is in a state of “Nutrition Emergency” and most of the nutrition indicators of the nation were worse than sub-Saharan Africa.
“In such a situation promoting breastfeeding could help a lot to improve nutrition status of newborns. This should also help boost their immunity level,” he said.
Meanwhile talking to The Express Tribune, Melanie Galvin, chief of Nutrition Section, UNICEF said it is unfortunate that exclusive breastfeeding rate in Pakistan is lowest in the region.
“In Pakistan children are often given other liquids in addition to breast milk, either water or formula mixed with water. The biggest problem is that water quality in Pakistan is often too poor which leads to many illnesses,” she said.
In connection to the Global Breastfeeding Week which started on August, 1, she emphasized that there is a ten times greater chance of dying from diarrhoea for infants not breastfed. The number increased to 15 times a greater chance of dying of pneumonia for infants not breastfed.
“Pneumonia and diarrhoea remain the biggest child killers in Pakistan. We can save countless lives by ensuring women know that breast milk and nothing but breast milk is the only choice for the baby,” she stressed.
“Breastfeeding is one of a handful of highly critical activities that can prevent or reverse stunting,” she said. Creating awareness at mass level could help to have a healthy nation, she added.
In this regard UNICEF is supporting the development of a national communication strategy to increase awareness of the vital importance of breastfeeding.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2015.