DOH advocacy on breastfeeding during disasters, gets WHO, UNICEF support PDF Print E-mail
Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:32

By LEILANI S. JUNIO

 

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have announced they are both supporting the Department of Health (DOH) advocacy in promoting breastfeeding in typhoon “Ruby”-affected areas and discouraging the donation of infant milk formula.

“Supporting breastfeeding is one of the most important things we can do to protect babies in areas affected by typhoon Ruby. The uncontrolled distribution and use of milk substitutes in emergencies is extremely dangerous given the serious water and sanitation challenges associated with disasters,” Dr. Julie Hall, WHO country representative in the Philippines, said in a joint statement with the UNICEF.

Dr. Hall said that contrary to belief of others that it is not safe for mothers to breastfeed during disaster as they face too much stress, it is the best option for mothers to breastfeed as the breastfeed milk strengthens the immune system of the baby and shields the infant from catching infectious diseases.

Hall explained they are finding ways to ensure that non-breastfed babies affected by typhoon “Ruby” could be identified so their feeding situation could be assessed, and their mothers be provided with skilled support and safest feeding option.

“Breast milk is without doubt the gold standard for infant nutrition. An estimated 8,400 lives could be saved every year if every Filipino family with infants and young children would practice optimal, i.e. exclusive, breastfeeding for the first six months of infant’s life with continued breastfeeding until two years of age,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF Representative in the Philippines.

According to Sylwander, the proven benefits of breast milk such as essential vitamins, amino acids and antibodies that are naturally present in a mother’s breast milk help reduce the occurrence of a growing list of illnesses such as ear and respiratory infections, diarrhea and meningitis.

In addition, she said, breast milk also protects children against allergies, asthma, obesity and sudden infant death syndrome.

Both international organizations also suggest the inclusion of capacity building for breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding as part of emergency preparedness and planning during emergencies or disasters.