Harare: 3 Aug. 2017 - World Breastfeeding week was launched in Highfield, Harare under the theme Sustaining Breastfeeding Together. The event, which was attended by the Highfield community of nursing mothers, UN agencies, and other players in child health and nutrition, aimed to mobilise stakeholders to work together to strengthen existing partnerships and forge new ways to invest in, and support breastfeeding for a more sustainable future. The launch comes amid calls by stakeholders to improve the exclusive breastfeeding rates in Zimbabwe. Results from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey 2015 show that only 48% of babies below the age of 6 months are exclusively breastfed, and those that are not exclusively breastfed are being fed inadequate diets. Breastfeeding is, therefore, an intervention that needs a lot of support if Zimbabwe is to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal of ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages.
Representatives from WHO, UNICEF, Ministry of Health and Child Care and other partners expressed concern about the low exclusive breastfeeding rates. The need for multi-sectorial action to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates was reflected by all speakers at the launch.
In a statement read on his behalf, WHO Representative Dr David Okello said “Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life, as breastmilk acts as a baby’s first vaccine protecting infants from deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.” The same sentiments were echoed by the UNICEF Representative and the Honorable Minister for Health and Child Care Dr David Parirenyatwa who added, “Breastfeeding has been shown to play a critical role in fostering a young child’s brain development and cognitive capacity.” The Minister of State for Harare Province, Honorable Miriam Chikukwa also emphasized the importance of breastfeeding and revealed that she personally breastfed her children for a period of two years.
WHO and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding be initiated within one hour of birth, that it continue with no other foods or liquids for the first six months of life, and that it be continued with complementary feeding (breastfeeding with other age-appropriate foods) until at least 24 months of age.