Somalia and the UN agencies started World Breastfeeding Week, calling for all to promote and support breastfeeding awareness in every setting.
The Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund, also known as UNICEF, said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, that breastfeeding awareness to increase the practice is among the national priorities in the health sector strategic plans for Somalia.
“It is the responsibility of everyone, from the household level through community leaders, public and private institutions, up to policymakers, to actively enable breastfeeding activities that make a difference for all parents,” said Ali Haji Adam, Somali minister of Health and Human Services.
Haji said breastfeeding is a smart investment in the health and future of a child, noting that breastfed children are more likely to have improved cognitive outcomes, leading to a stronger population.
Currently, only 34 percent of children aged under six months are exclusively breastfed and only one in two, or less, are breastfed after six months, according to the WHO.
During World Breastfeeding Week, Somalia and the two UN agencies will launch awareness campaigns countrywide, highlighting the importance of early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, feeding the child only breast milk for the first six months (exclusive breastfeeding).
WHO Representative for Somalia Mamunur Rahman Malik said effective breastfeeding support is a fundamental component of family-centered care.
Malik said the science and evidence are clear regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding both in the short term and in the longer term to infants and mothers. “There is evidence that shows that apart from improving cognitive development of infants, breastfeeding provides long-term protection against chronic diseases to both infants and mothers,” he added.
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme “Enabling Breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents” focuses on the benefits that breastfeeding can bring to babies, as well as a wider push for making policies that support breastfeeding for all women.
UNICEF Somalia Representative Wafaa Saeed said only one in three Somali children are exclusively breastfed for six months, noting that breastfeeding is not a one-woman job.
“It requires education and support for every woman, including vulnerable and marginalized women. The benefits of breastfeeding for children, mothers, and society are widespread. Giving children the best start in life can improve their health, reduce healthcare costs and ensure a healthier Somalia,” Saeed added.