Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi File picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)
Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi File picture: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency (ANA)

Plea to create a conducive environment for mothers to breastfeed

By Jonisayi Maromo Time of article published Aug 2, 2021

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Pretoria – As South Africa joins the global community in celebrating this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, Acting Minister of Health Mmamoloko Kubayi on Monday led a virtual commemoration calling on all family members, including fathers, to create a conducive environment for breastfeeding.

Spokesperson for the national Department of Health Popo Maja said Kubayi will be joined by Deputy Minister Dr Joe Phaahla.

Maja said the commemoration “aims to recognise the importance and benefits of breastfeeding for both the mother and baby’s growth and to deepen knowledge within the communities and families to support breastfeeding mothers”.

World Breastfeeding Week is commemorated annually across the globe during the first week of August to demonstrate sustained commitment to protect, support and promote breastfeeding as a key child survival and cost-effective intervention.

The 2021 World Breastfeeding Week commemoration is taking place amid the raging Covid-19 pandemic which has negatively impacted on healthcare systems across the globe.

This year, the day is observed under the theme: “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility”.

Maja said the 2021 theme serves as a call to action for fathers, families and communities to support breastfeeding mothers by creating an enabling environment for them to breastfeed their babies.

“Acting Minister [Kubayi] and Deputy (Minister Phaahla) will be joined by representatives of organisations in the sector which support the government`s programmes to reduce child poverty, to protect children, and to ensure that all children survive and thrive healthy,” said Maja.

“These partners include the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and the South African Civil Society for Women's Adolescent's and Children's Health (SACSoWACH).”

Meanwhile, a joint statement by Unicef executive director Henrietta Fore and World Health Organisation (WHO) director-general Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week said breastfeeding is crucial as it offers a powerful line of defence against all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting and obesity.

Breastfeeding also acts as babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses.

“While there has been progress in breastfeeding rates in the last four decades – with a 50 per cent increase in the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding globally – the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the fragility of those gains,” according to the joint statement.

“In many countries, the pandemic 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.”

The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) and WHO leaders said this World Breastfeeding Week is a time to revisit the commitments made at the start of the year by prioritizing breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.

This includes:

  • Ensuring the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – established to protect mothers from aggressive marketing practices by the baby food industry – is fully implemented by governments, health workers and industry.
  • Ensuring health care workers have the resources and information they need to effectively support mothers to breastfeed, including through global efforts such as the Baby-friendly Initiative, and guidelines on breastfeeding counselling.
  • Ensuring employers allow women the time and space they need to breastfeed; including paid parental leave with longer maternity leave; safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace; access to affordable and good-quality childcare; and universal child benefits and adequate wages.

African News Agency (ANA)

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