Two senior UN officials are urging Governments to make breastfeeding-friendly environments a priority, in line with
commitments made earlier this year to accelerate global progress on malnutrition.
Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF
, and Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO
), issued the reminder in a joint statement
for World Breastfeeding Week, which runs through 7 August.A central role
They recalled that Governments, donors, civil society and the private sector, united to launch the Nutrition for Growth
Year of Action, describing it as an historic opportunity to transform the way the world can fulfil the global commitment
to eliminate child malnutrition.
“Breastfeeding is central to realising this commitment,” they said.
“Initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and
continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, 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,” they added.Pandemic threatens progress
Although prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding increased by 50 per cent globally in the past four decades, alongside
other related progress, the COVID-19
pandemic has highlighted the fragility of those gains, the UN officials said.
In many countries, the crisis 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,” they
Their statement highlighted how World Breastfeeding Week is an opportunity to revisit the commitments made at the start
of the year by prioritizing breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies.
Action includes ensuring full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes –
established to protect mothers from aggressive marketing practices by the baby food industry.
Health workers also should have the resources and information necessary to support mothers to breastfeed.Smart investments and commitments
Meanwhile, employers must allow women the time and space to breastfeed their babies, including paid parental leave with
longer maternity leave, safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace, access to affordable and quality childcare, and
universal child benefits and adequate wages.
Looking ahead to the UN Food Systems Summit i
n New York in September, and the Nutrition for Growth Summit in Tokyo two months later, the UN officials called for
smart investments and commitments to combat the global malnutrition crisis.
Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding through stronger policies, programmes and actions, is part of this
“Now is not the time to lower our ambitions. Now is the time to aim high,” they stressed.
“We are committed to making theNutrition for Growth Year of Actiona success by ensuring that every child’s right to
nutritious, safe and affordable food and adequate nutrition is realized from the beginning of life, starting with