The Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Henrietta Fore and the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for prioritizing mothers and babies with an environment conducive to breastfeeding.
All governments should take action in this regard, in line with commitments made earlier this year to speed up progress on malnutrition, the statement added.
In this World Breastfeeding Week, Fore and Ghebreyesus stressed that breastfeeding also acts as babies´ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illness,’ they added.
Likewise, they added that breastfeeding is central to realizing the global commitment to eliminate child malnutrition.
Although prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding increased by 50% globally in the past four decades, alongside other related progress, the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of those gains, the UN officials said.
In many countries, the crisis has caused significant disruptions in breastfeeding support services, while increasing the risk of food insecurity and malnutrition.
Several countries have reported that producers of baby foods have compounded these risks by invoking unfounded fears that breastfeeding can transmit Covid-19 and marketing their products as a safer alternative to breastfeeding, they said.
Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding through stronger policies, programs and actions, is part of this effort.
Meanwhile, employers must allow women the time and space to breastfeed their babies, including paid parental leave with longer maternity leave, safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace, access to affordable and quality childcare, and universal child benefits and adequate wages.
pgh/Pll/msm / ifb