(August 12, 2021, Congo Town, Liberia) As part of efforts to ignite breastfeeding policies and social change to stop giving water to babies under six (6) months, the Ministry of Health (MOH) and its partners will Monday, August 18, 2021, observe World Breastfeeding Day.
The program will be held at the Royal Grand Hotel under the theme “Protect Breastfeeding a Shared Responsibility”.
The breastfeeding week celebration aims to catalyze much-needed policy, social, institutional, community and family dialogue and change geared towards improving breastfeeding rates in Liberia. It calls on governments, partners and businesses in Liberia to take action and position exclusive breastfeeding as a public health priority to improve the health and prosperity of children and nations.
Meanwhile, the celebration is also expected to call on stakeholders, partners, businesses, communities and families to ensuring mothers get the protection and support they need to give their babies the best start in life.
Five out of every 10 babies in Liberia receive plain water, other liquids and foods in addition to breastmilk during their first six months of life, contributing to child malnutrition, illnesses and even death.
“Having a comprehensive national strategy that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding is the most effective way to influence the environmental, social, economic and behavioral factors that influence a mother’s decision to feed a child breastmilk only in the first six months of life,” Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah, Minister of Health in Liberia.
For babies under six months to stay healthy, scientific evidence recommends giving them breastmilk only and on demand (day and night). No water, other liquids or foods should be given from the moment of birth until they reach six months of life, even in hot and dry climates, as breastmilk contains all the water and nutrients a baby needs to grow well.
Breastfeeding also has significant benefits for mothers by hastening recovery after childbirth, delaying the return of the menstrual cycle thus helping with birth spacing, and reducing the risk of cancer.
The costs of not breastfeeding are enormous: in addition to thousands of preventable deaths of children, it costs Liberia US$200,000 dollars annually to treat children with diarrhoea and pneumonia and type II diabetes in mothers that visit health facilities due to inadequate breastfeeding. Liberia stands to lose more than US$14 million a year due to future cognitive losses associated with not breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding is a team effort, governments, families, religious and community leaders, need to consistently advocate for increased maternity and respect for breastfeeding by employers including those in the private sector, and for the establishment of clean and secure spaces near workplaces where breastfeeding mothers can breastfeed,” said Laila Omar, UNICEF Representative in Liberia.
Director of Communication
Ministry of Health, R.L.