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By Sebastien Malo
New York — "Breastfeeding isn't just a one woman job"
No country does enough to help mothers breastfeed their babies for the recommended minimum of six months, a U.N.-backed study said on Tuesday, as it called for governments to clamp down on baby-formula marketing and pass laws for paid maternity leave.
Experts said investing in breastfeeding - which helps prevent infant deaths and boosts physical development and IQ - could save hundreds of thousands of children's lives and bring major economic benefits.
A study by the Global Breastfeeding Collective - a new initiative to improve breastfeeding rates - showed only 40 percent of young babies were exclusively breastfed for six months, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Boosting the rate to 50 percent by 2025 would save the lives of 520,000 young children and potentially generate $300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, the report said.
The gains would result from reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.
Pediatricians say exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months can help prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of infant death, and reduces the risk of infections, allergies and sudden infant death syndrome.
It also improves babies' cognitive development and protects mothers against ovarian and breast cancer.
Rwanda and Burundi have the highest rates of exclusive breastfeeding for a baby's first six months - 87 and 83 percent respectively - according to an index published with the report, while Chad and Djibouti came bottom, scoring 0 and 1 percent.
In the United States, the world's largest economy, only a quarter of babies under six months are breastfed exclusively, according to the scorecard. In China, the second biggest economy, the rate is one in five.
Anthony Lake, head of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, said promoting breastfeeding was one of the most cost-effective investments nations could make in the future health of their economies and societies.
"By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies - and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity," he said in a statement.
The index, released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week, is the first global compilation of comparative data on breastfeeding.
"Breastfeeding isn't just a one woman job," UNICEF spokeswoman France Begin told a media briefing.
"There are millions of women out there who want to breastfeed, but they don't have the support they need to do so."
The collective, comprising some 20 groups led by the WHO and UNICEF, also called for countries to enact better workplace breastfeeding policies and control the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
Although formula milk contains the nutrients needed for a baby's growth, experts say it doesn't offer the added protection against illness.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus described breastmilk as "a baby's first vaccine", protecting them from potentially deadly diseases.
The United Nations says breastfeeding is critical for achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of targets agreed by world leaders in 2015 for reducing poverty and inequality.
- Reporting by Sebastien Malo @sebastienmalo, Editing by Emma Batha.Read More »
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A new report developed by the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH), a coalition of more than 800 organizations, and the show that the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents are improving faster than at any point in history, even in the poorest nations
The transformation is due in great measure to the interventions promoted by one of the most successful global multi-stakeholder partnerships in history, Every Woman Every Child.
This massive public-private effort, launched by the United Nations in 2010, is still gaining momentum. In total, it has gathered nearly 650 commitments from hundreds of partners worldwide. But, in the past two years alone, more than 200 commitments have been made, about one-third of the total.
One key success measure of these interventions is that women’s survival during pregnancy and childbirth has improved in every region of the world. Since 1990, the world’s maternal death rate has fallen by 44 per cent. Still, in 2015, an estimated 303,000 women died from preventable causes during pregnancy and childbirth.
Another significant achievement: From 1990 to 2015, death rates of children under five declined by 53 per cent. Still, in 2015, an estimated 5.9 million children under five died – 16,000 every day – mainly from avoidable causes.
To respond to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, the UN launched the Every Woman Every Child Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health (2016-2030), building on momentum under the movement’s first Global Strategy (2010- 2015) and aligning with the SDGs. The Global Strategy is a detailed roadmap for countries to begin implementing the SDGs, reducing inequities, strengthening fragile health systems and fostering multi-sector approaches to end all preventable deaths of women, children and adolescents and ensure their health and well-being.
The report is the result of a long and careful process of consultation between all the EWEC partners involved.
To provide the latest status on progress towards the targets of the Global Strategy, the report highlights the latest available country data on 60 indicators, 34 of which come directly from the SDGs and an additional 26 taken from existing indexes and processes. This data, from WHO and other UN agencies, is included in an open-access online data portal launched in May 2017 on the World Health Organization’s Global Health
“Regular monitoring and accountability are vital to assess progress and to ensure that all people at all ages are getting the quality care they need for their health and well-being. We must find where gaps exist and act to make universal health coverage a reality for all. If we collectively invest the amount that is needed, we can save and improve the lives of millions of women, children and adolescents by 2030,” says Dr. Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General for Family, Women’s and Children’s Health at the World Health Organization.
The report documents contributions from countries, the private sector, intergovernmental bodies, academic, research and training institutions, philanthropy, foundations and health care professionals. It also reports on major disparities between high-income, low- and middle-income nations, as well as the poor and rich within countries. Other factors that hinder progress are lack of economic opportunities and supporting laws, cultural practices, poor access to health care and quality of care.