News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


UNICEF Urges Strong Leadership to Promote Breastfeeding

UNICEF Urges Strong Leadership to Promote Life-Saving Practice of Breastfeeding

New York, Aug 1 2013 - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) kicked off World Breastfeeding Week today by calling for strong leadership to promote a practice that is the most effective and inexpensive way to save a child’s life.

“There is no other single health intervention that has such a high impact for babies and mothers as breastfeeding and which costs so little for Governments,” said UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Geeta Rao Gupta. “Breastfeeding is a baby’s ‘first immunization’ and the most effective and inexpensive life-saver ever.”

Strong leadership is essential, the agency pointed out in a news release, because less than half of all children under the age of six months benefit from exclusive breastfeeding, despite the many advantages it provides for both children and mothers.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually from 1 to 7 August in more than 170 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

Both UNICEF and WHO recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life and continued breastfeeding for two years or beyond.

Children who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times more likely to survive the first six months of life than non-breastfed children, UNICEF stated, adding that starting breastfeeding in the first day after birth can reduce the risk of newborn death by up to 45 per cent.

Breastfeeding also supports a child’s ability to learn and helps prevent obesity and chronic diseases later in life. Recent studies in the United States and United Kingdom point to large health care savings resulting from breastfeeding, given that breastfed children fall ill much less often than non-breastfed children.

In addition, mothers who breastfeed exclusively are less likely to become pregnant in the first six months following delivery, recover faster from giving birth, and return to their pre-pregnancy weight sooner.

Evidence shows that they also experience less post-partum depression and have a lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers later in life, said UNICEF.

And yet, only 39 per cent of children aged less than six months were exclusively breastfed in 2012.

“This global figure has improved very little for the past several decades, due in part to large countries where the breastfeeding rate is low and to the general lack of a supportive environment for breastfeeding mothers,” UNICEF stated.

China, which recently attracted media attention because its strong consumer demand for baby formula caused shortages in other countries, has an exclusive breastfeeding rate of only 28 per cent, the agency noted.

To boost such low rates in the world’s most populous country, UNICEF and the National Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health in May launched a “10m2of Love” campaign to locate, register, certify and publicize breastfeeding rooms to raise awareness and support for breastfeeding.

Cambodia has had notable success in raising exclusive breastfeeding rates from 11.7 per cent of infants less than six months in 2000 to a very high 74 per cent in 2010. Togo and Zambia also increased the rates from 10 and 20 per cent respectively in the late 1990s to over 60 per cent by 2000.

Meanwhile, Tunisia’s exclusive breastfeeding rate fell dramatically from 46.5 per cent in 2000 to only 6.2 per cent by the end of the decade.

The exclusive breastfeeding rate in Indonesia is declining; Nigeria has made no improvement over many years; and some of the lowest rates in the world are in Somalia, Chad and South Africa.

“Such examples reflect insufficient global leadership on breastfeeding, as it continues to be undervalued relative to its importance in the life of child,” said UNICEF. “There needs to be higher prioritization and commitment, targeted policies and greater consensus to engage the world in promoting this life-saving and vital practice.”

For more details go to UN News Centre at


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: Avantdale Bowling Club

Auckland rapper and MC Tom Scott brought his stunning jazz-infused Taite Music Prize-winning project Avantdale Bowling Club to the Opera House headlining Wellington's 2020 Jazz Festival. More>>

Howard Davis: Kevin Field Quintet

With the hardest pews in town and an icon of Ruth Bader Ginsburg adorning the walls, St Peter's Church added a distinctly spiritual element to the debut of three new pieces by Kiwi jazz pianist and composer Kevin Field that celebrated our common humanity. More>>

Stage: Wellington’s Theatre Awards To Go Ahead

The Wellington Theatre Awards will go ahead despite a devastating year for New Zealand’s creative sector. Wellington Theatre Awards Trust Chair Tom Broadmore said, “the creative sector, and Wellington’s vibrant theatre sector has been gutted by the ... More>>

Journalism: An Icon Returns. New-Look North & South Magazine Hits Shelves

One of New Zealand’s most iconic magazines, North & South, is back on the shelves this week – with new independent ownership. The magazine, which has set the benchmark for investigative journalism in New Zealand since 1986, relaunches this week, ensuring ... More>>

Howard Davis: Three New Art Books for Xmas

Massey University and Te Papa Presses have published three new art books just in time for Xmas: Dick Frizzell's Me, According to the History of Art, Railways Studios, celebrating unique examples of government-sponsored advertising and design, and Nature - Stilled, Jane Ussher's extraordinary photographs of flora and fauna from the museum's natural history collections.

Howard Davis: Troy Kingi Rules The San Fran

The award-winning Northland musician performed songs from his new record The Ghost of Freddie Cesar, the fourth installment in his 10/10/10 series - ten albums in ten years in ten genres. More>>

Howard Davis: The Phoenix Foundation Rises From The Ashes (& Chris O'Connor Talks)

Simultaneously dreamy and structured, understated and subtle, spacious and hypnotic, The Phoenix Foundation's new album Lifeline includes gorgeous vocal harmonies, lilting lyrics with no lack of wry, self-deprecating humour, and gently weeping guitar parts. More>>



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland