Zimbabwe's Breastfeeding Figures Nose Dive

The United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) said the figures had gone down from 26 percent last year to about 5.8 percent this year, according to figures they were given by the Zimbabwe National Nutrition Survey of 2010.

“The rate of exclusive breastfeeding went down from 26 percent in the previous year to about 5.8 percent,” UNICEF said in a statement.

The UN body encouraged Zimbabwean mothers to breast feed their children exclusively at least six months after birth.

It said church leaders especially members from the Apostolic Faith in Zimbabwe should help promote exclusive breastfeeding for six months to ensure child survival and development.
“The engagement of religious leaders to promote exclusive breast feeding presents a good opportunity to get the message across because of the wide audience and respect that these leaders have in various communities,” said Dr Peter Salama, UNICEF Chief Representative to Zimbabwe in an interview.

“As UNICEF exclusive breast feeding in the first six months of life remains the cornerstone for child survival, growth and development. That is why bringing on board church and religious leaders is very important.”

UNICEF said more than a third of Zimbabwe’s children under the age of five were chronically malnourished and consequently stunted while about 15 000 of them were at risk of dying from the condition.

It said studies show that breastfed children live up to six times longer and have a better chance of survival in the early months of life than non breastfed ones.

“Breast feeding reduces the risk of mortality from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers as well as from other infectious diseases,” UNICEF said in its statement made available to Radio VOP.

“The damage to children from lack of good nutrition in the first two years of life can be permanent.”