This World Breastfeeding Week (August 1 to 7), under its theme ‘Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support’, Unicef and WHO called on governments to allocate increased resources to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programmes, especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency settings.
During emergencies, including those in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious and accessible food source for babies and young children. It offers a powerful line of defense against disease and all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting.
Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting it from common childhood illnesses. Yet the emotional distress, physical exhaustion, lack of space and privacy, and poor sanitation experienced by mothers in emergency settings mean that many babies are missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding to help them survive.
A joint statement issued by Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell and WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, called upon governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to step up efforts to:
- Prioritise investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts;
- Equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers;
- Protect caregivers and health-care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry; and
- Implement family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space and support they need to breastfeed.