‘Promote breastfeeding to cut child mortality’
Experts at a roundtable on Thursday underscored the need for promoting breastfeeding of babies to cut child mortality and ensure their good health.
Deaths of 1.5 million babies could be prevented each year if they are breastfed exclusively for six months and such feeding is continued till they are two years old, they said quoting a statistics of the World Health Organisation.
So, the mothers should not be allowed or forced to go for breast milk substitutes, they added.
The USAID and the daily Kaler Kantho jointly organised the roundtable styled “Protecting and promoting breastfeeding: Challenges and opportunities to implement Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation of Marketing) Act 2013”, at the East West Media Group Ltd (EWMGL) conference room.State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque attended the event as the chief guest while Kaler Kantho Editor Imdadul Haque Milan moderated the roundtable. Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, director of Centre for Nutrition and Food Security ICDDR,B, was the keynote speaker.
Dr Tahmeed Ahmed said that in Bangladesh, the rate of exclusively breastfeeding of babies up to five months was 64.1 percent in 2012 and 55 percent in 2014 and 89.6 percent until the age of two years in 2012 and 87 percent in 2014.
Raising literacy rate and awareness among the people is a must to boost the breastfeeding rate, he added.
The breastfeeding rate in Rwanda and Sri Lanka is 95 percent and 85 percent respectively due to high literacy, he said.
Dr Tahmeed also said breastfeeding reduces risk of diarrhoea and pneumonia in children and boosts their IQ.
Dr Shamim Jahan, Chief of Party of USAID’s SHIKHA Project, said it is possible to reach 100 percent in breastfeeding. “We have reached 84 percent in vaccination, why not we can reach 100 percent in breastfeeding. In vaccination, various materials are needed but in breastfeeding no investment is needed. It is free of cost.”
He urged the media to come forward and promote breastfeeding. “If everyone comes forward, we can reach our target easily,” he added.
Prof Dr SK Roy, chairperson of Board of Trustees of Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation, said breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for the infants. Child mortality has declined by around 23 percent due to breastfeeding, he said.
“We have enacted the Breast Milk Substitutes Ordinance in 2013. But we have not seen any implementation of the law,” he added.
Dr Mohsin Ali, nutrition specialist of UNICEF Bangladesh, said many women cannot breastfeed their children for lack of understanding and professional preoccupation.
He said a law has been made to ensure breastfeeding but it is not properly implemented. So, the legal and cultural loopholes should be plugged.
Nargis Sultana, project director at the Concerned Women for Family Development of the NGO Health Service Delivery Project, said nearly 26 lakh people are now under the service coverage of Smiling Sun Clinic in 64 districts.
“We have established a breastfeeding corner in every clinic to promote breastfeeding,” she added.
“We should work hard to understand the value of breastfeeding and form community service groups to promote breastfeeding.”
Dr Kaosar Afsana, director HNPP, BRAC, said a breastfeeding-friendly atmosphere and nutritious food for the mothers should be ensured.
She underscored the need for counselling of the mothers and training of doctors and nurses to promote breastfeeding.
Md Taslim Uddin, general manager, programme of Social Marketing Company, said 55 percent exclusively breastfeeding rate of the babies up to five months is not enough. He said public and private sector need to work together to promote breastfeeding.
Prof Dr AK Azad Choudhury, secretary general of Bangladesh Paediatric Association, said, “Children deprived of breastfeeding suffer from various diseases and infections. The mother of newborn may not have sufficient flow of milk in her breasts for some days. But she should not go for breastfeeding substitute.”
State Minister for Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque said promotion of breastfeeding is one of the priority tasks of the government.
Political will is needed to successfully execute a plan. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has attached importance to the issues relating to public health, including children’s hygiene, he said.
He also said empowerment of women and poverty alleviation are needed to create a congenial atmosphere for improvement of breastfeeding.
“If we want to promote breastfeeding, some steps are needed. The law should be applied properly along with step to raise public awareness. We have asked all RMG factories to set up breastfeeding corners there.”
Imdadul Haque Milan said breastfeeding intensifies relations between a mother and her child. He also called for raising awareness about breastfeeding.
Praising the ability of the people of Bangladesh to achieve any goal, he said, “The government of Bangladesh is constructing Padma Bridge at a cost of Tk 29,000 crore. About 50 lakh people took to the street to protest against militancy. We should work together to build our dream country.”
Prof Dr Abul Kalam Azad, additional director general of the Directorate of Health Service, Dr ABM Muzharul Islam, director of the Institute of Public Health Nutrition and line director of National Nutrition Services, Dr Mohammad Sharif, director general of Family Planning, Dr Iftekhar Rashid, nutrition specialist of USAID, Bangladesh, Helal Uddin, director of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industries, Dr SM Mustafizur Rahman, country director of MI Bangladesh, Joby George, chief of party-MCHIP Bangladesh at Save the Children, and Md Belal Uddin, advisor (media and communication) of MaMoni, Save the Children, also spoke.
Troy Beckman, Development Outreach and Communications Officer of USAID, gave a vote of thanks.