NEW DELHI, India, 4 August 2009 - Breastfeeding can save lives and plays a vital role in protecting infants from under nutrition and illnesses that are common byproducts of natural disasters and other emergencies.
“In emergency situations, children and families often have to survive without adequate food, safe water and sanitation,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, in honor of World Breast Feeding Week, 1-7 August. This year’s theme is “Breast Feeding: A Vital Emergency Response.”
“Breast milk offers an excellent source of nutrition for infants and, especially where clean water is lacking, helps keep young children safe from dangerous water-borne illnesses like diarrhea.”
Breastfeeding also provides children with protection from infectious and respiratory illnesses, boosts their immune systems and helps protect them from chronic conditions later in life. “In the past 10 years, 14 countries, including some that have experienced disasters and crises, have shown more than 20 percent increase in rates of exclusive breastfeeding,” said Veneman.
“When the value of breastfeeding is recognized and concerted efforts are made to promote and protect the practice, progress is possible even in difficult times.” This year’s World Breastfeeding Week provides an opportunity to sensitize policy-makers, donors, implementing partners and the general public to the benefits of breastfeeding. In India, breastfeeding is a cultural norm and most children are breastfed during the first year of life.
NFHS-3 shows that currently only 46.4 per cent of Indian children benefit from exclusive breastfeeding, an important child survival intervention. However, a recent DLHS-III survey has shown an improvement in the breastfeeding indicators in most states. It is estimated that optimal breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices can avert almost 20 per cent of child deaths in India.
Providing encouragement and support to mothers and families to breastfeed their children, alongside support for the health and nutrition of mothers themselves, is an important key to reducing malnutrition.
For further information, please contact:
Communication Chief, UNICEF India.
Communication Specialist, UNICEF India
Communication Officer (Media), UNICEF India.