Malnutrition continues to hamper development efforts across Africa, contributing to a significant number of deaths of children under five years of age every year. Breastfeeding is a vital part of sustainable development and a non-negotiable component of continental action to end malnutrition. Increased rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding can only be achieved by cooperating and collaborating across sectors and generations.
Strong evidence indicates that breastfeeding is the best practice for child health, development and nutrition. Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of 823,000 children and 20,000 women a year and contribute signiﬁcantly to long-term health (Lancet, 2016). WHO and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within one hour of birth and that it continue with no other foods or liquids for the first six months of life. Moreover, urgent steps are needed to coordinate global action to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
In 2015, NEPAD Agency developed the Africa Nutrition Scorecard, stemming from the Global Nutrition Report. The scorecard serves as a useful barometer of the inroads and progress made by individual countries to effectively deal with the problem of undernutrition, including the progress made in child nutrition targets, particularly rates of exclusive breastfeeding for infants younger than six months of age. NEPAD Agency recognises the World Breastfeeding Week in the fight to end undernutrition.
Through the Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural growth and Transformation for shared prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, and the Declaration on Nutrition Security for Inclusive Economic Growth and Sustainable Development in Africa, African leaders committed to ending hunger and reducing underweight to 5 percent and stunting to 10 percent by 2025. Subsequently, the Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy (ARNS), World Health Assembly has set a goal of increasing the rate of exclusive breastfeeding to at least 50% by 2025.
World Breastfeeding Week is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), a global network of individuals and organisations concerned with the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding worldwide.
Objectives of the 2017 World Breastfeeding Week:
- INFORM: Understand the importance of working together;
- ANCHOR: Recognise your role and the diﬀerence you make within your area of work;
- ENGAGE: Reach out to others to establish areas of common interest;
- GALVANISE: Work together to achieve the SDGs by 2030 and to reduce stunting to 10% by 2025
Breastfeeding is not just a woman’s issue nor the sole responsibility of a woman - the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is a collective societal responsibility shared by us all.
Sustaining Breastfeeding can be achieved. According to NEPAD’s Africa Nutrition Scorecard, 21 Africa countries are on course towards exclusive breastfeeding progress target of the Africa Regional Nutrition Strategy and the World health Assembly. For instance, from 2013 to 2014, exclusive breastfeeding progression of Zambia tops the list, at 72.5% out of the 21 African countries. This can be improved on with more with political commitment and support, media attention and the participation of a range of actors, especially young people.
Team eﬀort is also critical, It is needed to make breastfeeding work. There is need to link change-makers at community, country, regional and global levels to call for collective action and impact. All mothers can be empowered with a satisfying and eﬀective breastfeeding experience.
Breastfeeding testimonies from NEPAD Agency staff:
- “At six months, my baby is still on breast-milk! Breastfeeding is best and as it is very nutritious food for my baby! It also minimises the risk of my baby getting illnesses,” Nobuhle Ngonyama
- “Breastfeeding is easy as ABC…you can do it too! I did it by managing my breastfeeding hours and of course by using a breast-pump to express breastmilk during working hours,” Tendai Sithole
- “As a young lady, I was excited to become a mother. Breastfeeding had always been a 100% consideration. It gave me a sense of motherhood and I knew my son was getting the best nutrition I could offer,” Masedi Tshukudu
- “Breastmilk has a special nutrient called colostrum which lasts for several days after delivery and contains antibodies that protect babies against diseases. Natural bonding between a mother and her child happens during breastfeeding,” Edna Kalima
- “I have two beautiful and healthy children as a result of six months’ exclusive breastfeeding as the optimal way of feeding them. I was able to change my attitude and sustained breastfeeding by using a breast-pump to express breastmilk while at work,” Kefilwe Rhoba Moalosi
Let’s advocate together to transform evidence into action for breastfeeding…