Under the theme, "Step up for breast feeding: Educate and support", the World Breastfeeding week included outreach and awareness-raising activities across the country
Baghdad, Iraq, 08 August 2022 - The Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF announced the closure of the World Breast Feeding Week, organized from 1 to 7 August, with a focus on on the importance of breastfeeding.
Under this year's theme, "Step up for breastfeeding: educate and support," the three organizations promoted education and the transformation of existing systems to ensure breastfeeding-friendly health care facilities, supportive communities and workplaces.
The Breast Feeding Week in Iraq included outreach and awareness-raising activities at shopping malls, hospitals, health facilities and through mass and social media platforms. A U-report poll served to discover young people's knowledge of the importance of breastfeeding.
"The Ministry of Health continues to prioritize protection and promotion of breastfeeding to reach the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030," said Dr. Hani Al Aqabi, Minister of Health.
In Iraq, while more than 9 out of 10 children were breastfed at some point in their young lives, only 25.8 per cent  of children were exclusively breastfed  during the first six months of life. This rate is much lower than the Middle East and North Africa regional average of 33 per cent .
"Breastfeeding provides children the best start in life. It is a baby's best source of nutrition, bolstering brain development and with lifelong benefits for the mother and the baby," said Dr. Paula Bulancea, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Iraq. "UNICEF remains committed to supporting the Ministry of Health and others to expand breastfeeding support systems beyond pre-pandemic levels and strengthen the capacity of these systems to achieve the global nutrition targets."
Early initiation of breastfeeding, in the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding between 0-5 months, and continued breastfeeding for 6-23 months offer a powerful line of defence against infection and malnutrition.
In contrast, infants who are not fully or partially breast-fed have a higher risk of diarrhea and are more likely to die from severe malnutrition if they don't get lifesaving treatment.
"The best gift that parents could give to their new-borns is breastfeeding. It gives the baby a good start in life, provides the right nutriments for adequate growth, and the right protection against childhood diseases. Breastfeeding also allows for a strong bond with the mother, ensuring balanced physical and emotional growth," said Dr. Ahmed Zouiten, WHO Representative in Iraq. "Breast milk is a miracle product that no child should be deprived of."
In order to maintain the progress achieved in promoting and supporting breastfeeding in Iraq, UNICEF and WHO call on the Government of Iraq, civil society, donors, and the private sector to step up their support to:
- Prioritize investing in breastfeeding support programmes - as part of a minimum package of health and nutrition interventions;
- Build the capacity of the health workforce to enable them to provide quality counseling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed;
- Protect caregivers and health care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry by fully adopting and implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes, and its legislation.
 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, Iraq, 2018
 Fed nothing but breast milk
 UNICEF Data, 2021. https://data.unicef.org/resources/dataset/breastfeeding/
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Sadeq Hasan, World Health Organization, email: email@example.com
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