By Ibrahim Kabba Turay
The new Deputy Minister of Health II, Jelikatu Mustapha, has disclosed that 54.1% of infants exclusively enjoy breastfeeding from birth up to 6 months and that just 30% are breastfed up to 24 months.
She was addressing partners, including UNICEF and Focus 1000 on the World Breastfeeding Week on Friday, 4th August, at Youyi Building in Freetown.
The celebration, which was held at the MOHs’ conference room, was to generate public awareness and support for breastfeeding on the theme; “Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents.”
She said breastfed babies are 14 times less risk of dying in the first six month of birth than babies that are not breastfed.
She added that Sierra Leone over the years was struggling with infants and maternal mortality rate.
She added that exclusive breastfeeding is cost effective for all parents and that it’s safer for the child during the process of developing.
She promised that as a Deputy Minister and with the new Gender Bill, she will ensure that women are given maternity leave of fourteen weeks.
Chief of Health and Nutrition at UNICEF, Dr. Vandana Joshi, said the UN remains at the forefront in advocating for the empowerment and support of working parents to ensure that they balance their work responsibilities, while providing the best nutrition and care for their infants through breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding is more than just a source of nutrition for infants; it is a fundamental right and a cornerstone of early child development. The benefits of breastfeeding are manifold from providing essential nutrition and antibodies to protecting against infectious disease to fostering a deep emotional bond between mother and child,” she said
Dr. Joshi said the lack of workplace support for mothers limit their opportunity to continue breastfeeding and can have a lasting impact on children’s well-being.
She said UNICEF and other UN agencies acknowledge the need for more supportive policies in this while.
She continued that this year’s the world breastfeeding week provides a unique opportunity to advance four crucial areas that intersect with the lives or working parents, mother and their children.
She said supportive workplace, it’s not just about paid leave and flexible hours, it’s about creating space where mothers can nurture their children.
She said community involvement are the backbone of support from family to friends, and that their encouragement will ease the breastfeeding journey and access to quality health services is their pursuit of enabling breastfeeding for working mother.