(August 18, 2021, 14 Street, Sinkor, Monrovia, Liberia)—the Ministry of Health (MOH) and its partners on August 18, 2021 joined the world to observe the day commemorating celebration of World Breastfeeding Week.
The World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration held every year from August 1 to 7 in over 120 countries. The World Health Organization states breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. This year, the theme for breastfeeding week is “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility”.
World Breastfeeding week is celebrated to encourage exclusive breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world.
The history of this week-long commemoration dates back to the 1990s when the World Health Organization ( WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) created the Innocent Declaration to promote and support breastfeeding.
The elaborate program held at the Royal Grant Hotel gathered participants from diverse backgrounds, who shared thoughts and made recommendations to stakeholders within the health sector as well as legislators to ignite breastfeeding policies and social change to stop giving water to babies under six (6) months. It also provided field agents and decision makers the opportunity to catalyze much-needed policy, social, institutional, community and family dialogue and change geared towards improving breastfeeding rates in Liberia. Seeing exclusive breastfeeding as a public health priority to improve the health and prosperity of children and nations was among few things highlighted.
Meanwhile, the Director of Family Health Division, Madam Bentoe Z. Tehoungue said: “some of us at this age we can still calculate, reason, and even still having teeth in our mouth; and I know, it is the contribution of breastmilk. So we want to encourage those who are now having children to be able to breastfeed their children. Breastmilk is the best milk for your babies. And we all need to encourage other people who are having children today to give their children breastmilk.”
“Breastfeeding is also known as nursing. It is the best way to provide young infants with the essential nutrients required for growth and development. Breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and acts as the babies’ first vaccines protecting them against many common childhood illnesses. I am grateful that this week-long celebration is held in my county—Montserrado”, Dr. Yatta Wapoe, County Health Officer (CHO) of Montserrado Health Team, said in remarks.
For her part, Ministry of Health’s Director of Nutrition Dr. Annette Brima-Davis said her Division is doing everything possible to increase and promote messages on breastfeeding in order to educate the public in general.
She highlighted that the overarching goal of the week-long celebration is to highlight the importance of breastfeeding, to encourage and promote exclusive breastfeeding and to improve the health of babies and mothers all across the country.
“Breastfeeding promote better health for mothers and children alike. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and health diseased breastfeeding could avert 20,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer,” she highlighted.
“As we begin the World Breastfeeding Week celebration, my satisfaction is all greater at this event once again demonstrates our common and unwavering commitment to join forces to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the fulfilment of every child’s right to health survival and development”, Dr. Gorbee G. Logan, Assistant Minister of Curative Health Services at the Ministry of Health, remarking on behalf of the Liberian government and the Ministry.
Dr Logan said significant efforts have been made in recent years by the government of Liberia with the support of UNICEF and partners to improve maternal and child nutrition; despite the current progress made, one-third of the children in Liberia suffer from chronic malnutrition.
“Breastfeeding gives all children the healthiest start in life. Breastmilk acts as a first vaccine, stimulates brain development and protects women’s health. When a mother breastfeeds, everyone benefits. Breastfeeding leads to lower healthcare cost and healthier family, and a smarter workforce.
Today, it is sadden to know that, six out of ten babies are initiated on breastmilk within an hour of birth. Four out of every ten babies in Liberia receives plain water, liquids and food in addition to breastmilk during their first six months of life, contributing to child malnutrition, illnesses and even death. Only 3% of children, age 6 to 23 months receive an adequate food,” he noted.
Dr. Logan said, given the theme for this year celebration ‘“Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility”, the day should engineer a collective responsibility of everyone to protect, promote and support exclusive breastfeeding to improve the survival rate and early childhood development of children.
He thanked participants as well as partners including UNICEF, Concern Worldwide, WHO, WFP, Action Against Hunger, Water Aid, and SUNCSAL for continuous support and contribution towards the country’s health sector.
Director of Communication
Ministry of Health, R.L.