Only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent, a joint report by World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has shown.
The report released Wednesday also indicated that no country in the world has fully met the recommended standards for breastfeeding.
According to the WHO, breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of life; the baby should be breastfed exclusively for six months as often as they want and without any other food or drink, not even water.
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard evaluated 194 nations.
The report was released at the start of the World Breastfeeding Week, which runs from August 1 to 7.
Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants.
“Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life and works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.
According to the report, countries have failed mothers and babies worldwide by failing to invest in breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is a vital part of providing every child with the healthiest start to life. It can bolster brain development. It can save 520,000 children’s lives in the next 10 years.
But breastfeeding is not just a one woman’s job. It requires encouragement and support from all corners.
“To make the most of the value of breastfeeding for children and nations, governments and donors need to act together. By investing $570 million a year for the next 10 years, governments, donors and partners can help raise the rate of exclusive breastfeeding to at least 50 per cent,” said the report.
Dr Ghebreyesus demonstrated that an annual investment of only $4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025. “The Investment Case for Breastfeeding suggests that meeting this target could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate $300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs,” she said.