By Gabriel Olawale
The World Health Organisation, WHO, Tuesday said that Nigeria, China, India, Indonesia and Mexico, lose approximately $119 billion annually due to lack of investment in breastfeeding.

BREASTFEEDING: Mothers in action

A new report by the WHO and UNICEF in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, shows that in the countries which are five of the world’s largest emerging economies, lack of investment in breastfeeding results in an estimated 236,000 child deaths per year and US$119 billion in economic losses.

Reacting to this development, the Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesu, said that exclusive breastfeeding could save the lives of 520,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate US$300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.

Tedros regretted that despite the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding no country in the world fully meets recommended standards for breastfeeding, saying: “The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are breastfed exclusively (given nothing but breastmilk) and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.”

“Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower- and middle-income countries spend approximately US$250 million on breastfeeding promotion; and donors provide only an additional US$85 million.

“Evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. It is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.

He said that breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life, noting: “Breastmilk works like a baby’s first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive.”


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