Botswana’s Ministry of Health Deputy permanent secretary, Dr Haruna Jibril has stressed the importance of breastfeeding as an ecological and socially sustainable practice during this year’s commemoration of World Breastfeeding Day.
Presiding over the commemoration of the breastfeeding week in Hukuntsi, Dr Jibril noted that research had shown that exclusive breastfeeding for the baby’s first six months and continued breastfeeding for the next two years and beyond, offer high quality nutrients and can help fight hunger and malnutrition. He noted that this year’s theme, ‘Breastfeeding; A key to sustainable development’ perfectly connects breastfeeding with the newly launched Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) whose overall goal is to protect the planet ,end poverty and ensure prosperity for all citizens.
He said the theme connects breastfeeding as a key survival and sustainable aspect of the SDGs as it improves the development and survival of infants.
“Breastfeeding is interwoven with all SDG goals as a key component of nutrition and food security as well as an environmentally sustainable method of feeding children to hence their healthy development and survival,” he said. Breastfeeding, he said, plays an important role in improved maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and had been globally recognised as a key public health approach that could help prevent infant mortality and lessen inequities.
Optimal breastfeeding practices as well as appropriate home prepared complementary foods are among the most effective interventions to protect children from common causes of death including complications from prematurity, new-born infections and diarrhoea.
Dr Jibril noted that breastfeeding rates had however drastically declined in Botswana over the past years, adding that breastfeeding rates stood at 90 per cent in 1998 as per the Botswana Family Health Survey, but currently only 20 per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months and only 6 per cent are still breastfeeding at two years.
He said HIV and AIDS had in the past years been identified as major cause for breastfeeding decline since HIV mothers were initially discouraged to breastfeed based on the best available scientific information at that time. Significant research evidence and programmatic experience regarding HIV and infant child feeding, he however said had accumulated in recent times.
“The successful Prevention of Mother-to-Child (PMTCT) Programme in Botswana has reduced mother-to-child transmission significantly and this experience contributed to child survival strategy development globally,” he said.
He further urged men to support their women to breastfeed adding that men influence women decisions hence men’s perceptions of their roles as members of the breastfeeding family are key determinants of a successful breastfeeding experience.