Breastfeeding To Prevent 220 000 Children�s Deaths - WHO

A World Health Organization�s (WHO) report says globally, breastfeeding has the potential to prevent 220, 000 deaths among children under five each year. The report published annually during World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated in more than 170 countries from 1st to 7th August, said early initiation of breastfeeding could prevent about one fifth of neonatal deaths and that less than half of infants are put to the breast within one hour of birth. The report entitled: �Country implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes: Status report 2011,� was made available to the Ghana News Agency on Wednesday by Fad�la Chaib, WHO Communications Officer in Geneva. WHO recommends that all infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life but actual practice is low (38 per cent). It noted that only about half of children aged 20�23 months were breastfed despite the recommendation that breastfeeding continue for up to 2 years or beyond. It said: �The implementation and enforcement of the standards and recommendations contained in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant Health Assembly Resolutions (the Code) are critical for ensuring an environment that supports proper infant and young child feeding and contributing to the attainment of Millennium Development Goal 4 (reduce child mortality by two thirds)�. This report summarizes the progress countries have made in implementing the Code; based on data received from WHO Member States between 2008 and 2010 and on information for 2011 from UNICEF. �Thirty years after its endorsement, only 37 out of 199 countries reporting (19 per cent) have passed laws reflecting all of the recommendations of the Code. �Sixty-nine countries (35 per cent) fully prohibit advertising of breast-milk substitutes, 62 (31 per cent) completely prohibit free samples or low-cost supplies, 64 (32 per cent) completely prohibit gifts of any kind from relevant manufacturers to health workers, and 83 (42 per cent) require a message about the superiority of breastfeeding on breast- milk substitute labels,� the report stated. It said only 45 countries (23 per cent) report having a functioning implementation and monitoring system, adding that key areas where further efforts are needed which were raised by member states include gaps in existing national legislation, clarity on processes necessary for the adaptation of the Code, difficulty in gaining regulatory approval of draft measures, weak implementation, poor monitoring systems and reported violations by the industry. It said to ensure the successful implementation of the Code, the following are considered critical by government officials or national authorities: political commitment and advocacy; a critical mass of advocates; legislation; and knowledge about the Code and its implications. �Actions at both international and national levels are needed to ensure full implementation of the Code. Member States need additional support from international agencies. �Human rights treaty monitoring bodies must step-up reviews of Code implementation as part of States� obligations under relevant human rights instruments. �There is also a need to invest in efforts to disseminate information on Code implementation and create capacity for Code monitoring,� it said. The report noted that at the national level governments should pass legislation, set up functional monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, forge partnerships with civil society and set up documentation and reporting systems for violations. It said the Code remains a catalyst for change and a core element in which countries should invest to curb child mortality through improved infant and young child nutrition. In World Breastfeeding Week 2013, WHO and partners are calling for more support for breastfeeding mothers.