Liberia: Breastfeeding a priority to save lives and nurture childhood potential

Report
from UN Children's Fund
Published on 01 Aug 2005
Zorzor, LIBERIA (UNICEF/1 August 2005): During World Breastfeeding Week, which gets underway today, UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare and other partners, is urging all mother's to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of a newborn's life and then continue to breastfeed while providing nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods for two years or longer.
"Exclusive breastfeeding is the number one preventive intervention for child survival, with the potential to save at least an additional 1.3 million lives per year," said UNICEF Liberia Representative Angela Kearney. "Continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary feeding, which is the theme of this year's World Breastfeeding Week, could save nearly 600,000 children. This reflects the potential to save at least 5,000 more child lives each and every day.

"One of the radio public service announcements that UNICEF and our partners at the Ministry of Health is broadcasting this week says, 'Give your baby only breastmilk for the first six months of life,'" Kearney said. "And that's what UNICEF means when we urge all mothers to exclusively breastfeed for the six months of a child's life and then to continue giving the breast while feeding nutritious foods like rice pape and mashed fruit for two years or longer."

UNICEF and its partners work everyday to encourage mothers to breastfeed and during the next 14 days social mobilizers are partnering with an estimated 50 communities in Lofa County to help educate mothers about the essential benefits of exclusively breastfeeding for six month and then continuing to breastfeed while feeding children nutritious foods like rice pap for two years or longer. The theme for this year's World Breastfeeding Week is, "Breastfeeding and Family Foods: Loving and Healthy. Feeding other foods while breastfeeding is continued."

"If we are to fulfil the promise of the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals, we must renew our attention to those interventions that are effective, affordable, and have significant impact," said UNICEF's Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. "Improvements in breastfeeding and complementary feeding are essential for success in child survival, in reducing hunger, and to ensure that children develop in a manner that they may best benefit from education and opportunity."

"Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nourishment for a baby up to six-months-old," said Health and Social Welfare Minister, Dr. Peter Coleman. "In a developing country like Liberia, a child that is not breastfed is three times more likely to die in early infancy than a breastfed child, and exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk still further. Breastfeeding helps infant minds and bodies to thrive, increasing the odds that children grow to be healthy and educated. It is a priceless gift."

About UNICEF

For nearly 60 years UNICEF has been the world's leader for children, working on the ground in 158 countries to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for poor countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. UNICEF is a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Patrick Slavin, Communications Officer, UNICEF Liberia, Cell # 06 538298, pslavin@unicef.org
MacArthur S. Hill, Program Communications Officer, UNICEF Liberia, Cell # 06 516183,
mhill@unicef.org

To receive this media alert and other communications materials via e-mail, please contact Alexandria Cooper-Wrimene, Secretary, Information and Communication, UNICEF Liberia, Cell # 06 514012.

acooperwrimene@unicef.org