What We Are Doing

‘Superfood for Babies’: Overcoming barriers to breastfeeding 19 Feb 2013

Pakistan
Photograph by: Ayesha Vellani/Save the Children

Save the Children has launched its new report Superfood for Babies: How overcoming the barriers to breastfeeding will save children’s lives, with high level policy roundtable launch events in Geneva and around the world. There’s already been significant media coverage, with articles in the Guardian, Huffington Post, Sky News and the BBC. Follow #FirstHour on Twitter to get involved!

In Pakistan, Save the Children held a ceremony to launch the report, where participants and speakers came to a unanimous agreement that breastfeeding is the most effective and tested method to protect children from killer diseases as soon as they are born.

“The lives of 95 babies could be saved every hour - 830,000 a year, if new mothers around the world breastfed immediately after giving birth”, said Dr. Qudsia Uzma, Director Health & Nutrition at Save the Children, while sharing the salient features of the report. She highlighted that if babies receive colostrum – the mother’s first milk – within an hour of birth, it will kick start the child’s immune system, making them three times more likely to survive. If the mother continues feeding for the next six months, then a child growing up in the developing world is up to 15 times less likely to die from killer diseases like pneumonia and diarrhea.

It was only four days ago that Pakistan witnessed the adoption of the local legislation by Sindh to address breastfeeding violations. Serendipity perhaps, but the timing of this development in terms of the revealing of the Report could not have been better.  

“It’s heartening to know that the Provincial Assembly in Sindh has adopted the Sindh Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition (Amendment) Act 2013. However, the real test is its implementation in letter and spirit”, noted Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director in Pakistan, Mr. Ghulam Qadri: “Despite the Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance on statute books since 2002, its implementation has always remained a distant desire.”

The EVERY ONE Campaign in Pakistan also recently saw the induction of its second champion, Haroon Rashid.

 “I would like to take this opportunity to pledge that as a Campaign Ambassador for Save the Children’s EVERY ONE Campaign, I will do all that is possible in my capacity to take forward the cause of maternal, newborn and child health in Pakistan” the singer proclaimed at the launch,  where he was formally introduced as the Campaign Ambassador. “When I was approached to become an Ambassador, I didn’t hesitate to take the assignment up as this is a subject very close to my heart.”

“The teachings of Islam strongly endorse that mothers should breastfeed their children for two years and I congratulate Save the Children for taking up such an important subject related to infant mortality”, said Dr. Donya Aziz, Member National Assembly of Pakistan, who was also part of the panel. With her proclamation of taking up the matter of implementation of the Ordinance with the Minister for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD), it was clear that Dr. Donya recognized the value of such an intervention to ensure that every infant is given the life-saving protection that breastfeeding can offer. Referring to the report’s recommendation about lack of adequate maternity legislation which makes breastfeeding and returning to work a challenge, Dr. Donya Aziz, promised that if provided with a bill about adequate maternity legislation, she will place it before the National Assembly of Pakistan and endeavour to help ensure that the law is adopted.

“Legislation alone is not going to change the situation as numerous bills already exist in Pakistan; it is the implementation of laws that demand attention”, said Dr. Sania Nistar, a prominent right to health advocate in Pakistan and founder of the organization Heartfile.

“Equity statistics at all levels shows fundamental distortions in Pakistan. The Breast Milk Substitute production industry has to be brought to the table. If they are part of the problem, they should also be part of the solution.”

Dr. Sania rounded up the entire event by underlining that breastfeeding can have an impact on the bottom line because it costs nothing, thereby having a large scale impact on the improvement of newborn and child health By concluding that Save the Children has touched the heart of the problem with the new report, we knew that a potential partnership with Heartfile could be in the making. 

By Arshad Mahmood, Save the Children Pakistan