Experts at a Seminar revealed that in Pakistan, only 37 percent of infants under six months old are breastfed and despite the practice being strongly advised by global bodies including the WHO and UNICEF, only 28.8 percent of newborns are breastfed within the first hour of birth. They were addressing a Seminar organized by the Save the Children and Health, Education and Literacy Program (HELP) at a local hotel in Karachi.
The Seminar was organized in connection with World Breastfeeding Week. It was attended by doctors and paediatricians, government officials, faculty from medical universities, and representatives of non-governmental organisations.
Prof. D. S. Akram, Chairperson & President, HELP addressing the seminar informed that research has proved that feeding babies immediately after birth can lead to a significant reduction in neonatal deaths, which are most common in developing countries, yet the rate of early breastfeeding initiation remains extremely low throughout our country. Citing data from the Pakistan Demographic Health Survey, she that Punjab had the lowest prevalence of breastfeeding, as bottle feeding remains popular among the rural and urban population of the province.
She was of the view that if Pakistan was to achieve MDGs by 2015, it would have to reduce malnutrition by half from 15.1pc to 7.5pc — and reduce the mortality rate of children less than five years from 89/1,000 live births to 30/1,000. The country still had a long way to go to help achieve the MDGs by 2015. Pakistan had the highest rate of first-day deaths and stillbirths at 40.7 per 1,000 births, followed by Nigeria (32.7), Sierra Leone (30.8), Somalia (29.7), Guinea-Bissau (29.4) and Afghanistan (29).
Iqbal Detho, Provincial Advocacy & Campaign Manager, Save the Children gave a detailed presentation about the campaign that focuses on improving child health care.
Syed Nasir Hussain Shah from Sindh’s Infant Feeding Board said that in urban areas breastfeeding is less common throughout the country. He assured that the government was aware of its responsibility and has been making active efforts to promote the concept.
Dr. Sohail Shahid from Sindh Nutrition Cell presented a follow up on the ‘Sindh Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance 2013’ which had been unanimously passed by the provincial assembly. He informed that Sindh Government had devised a strategy for the revival and expansion of baby-friendly hospitals, communities and health facilities. Besides, advocacy and awareness among policy makers, academia, managers, private practitioners and hospital management through the media was being planned.
Dr. Sabeen Adil shared her experiences and said that awareness and education regarding practical lactation management techniques was essential for sustainable improvement in the current scenario.