The world breastfeeding week commenced on August 1st, with the theme: “Support mothers to breast feed exclusively.” This culminated to the official launching of a National Protocol for Severe Acute Malnutrition in Sierra Leone by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in collaboration with UNICEF and Helen Keller International at the St. Anthony Parish Conference Center in Freetown.
The official launching of the National Protocol for Severe Acute Malnutrition in Sierra Leone and the commencement of world breast feeding week was chaired by Dr. K. Daboh, the Head of Reproductive Health Care at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, who properly explained the significance of the protocol: It is expected to provide free Medicare for children below the age of five, and also support feeding programs for malnourished children. Marian Bangura, Nutrition Program officer for Helen Keller International, spoke about the uniqueness of mother’s milk, noting it has the right amount of fat, sugar, water, and protein that is needed for baby’s growth and development. Most babies find it easier to digest breast milk than they do formula. She affirmed that breast milk has agents (called antibodies) in it, to help protect infants from bacteria and viruses and to help them fight off infection and disease. Human milk straight from the breast is always sterile.
Mrs. Bangura however maintained that hunger and poverty has been largely responsible for the high rate of infant mortality in the country, due to the inadequate breastfeeding of newborn babies and the rate of malnourished children in most parts of the country. This indicates that infants who are not breastfed have higher rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in the first year of life, and higher rates of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, lymphoma, leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, overweight and obesity, high cholesterol and asthma. Babies who are not breastfed are sick more often and have more doctors’ visits due to minor infections.
UNICEF Country Representative, assured the Sierra Leone Government and its partners of there continuous support in the provision of health care delivery and the promotion of child education, noting that the lack of exclusive breastfeeding by lactating mothers and the severe acute malnutrition in the country is responsible for the high rate of infant mortality rate in the country. The UNICEF representative also spoke about the high rate of ignorance among lactating mothers, which may be responsible for the death of many children, and also spoke about the lack of women empowerment and expressed the need for Government to incorporate into the PRSP document a human development aspect with priority on health care delivery and access to education. In his key note address, the Minister of Health and Sanitation, Dr. Soccoh Kabia, properly explained the importance of breast feeding a newborn baby exclusively for six months, as it will help babies become healthier because the sterile breast milk can fight infections. He did, however, lament about the high rate of malnutrition in the country due to hunger and poverty, which is responsible for the 58.8 percent of infant mortality deaths, adding that only 8 percent of newborn babies receive extensive breastfeeding from mothers.
The Minister intimated that the implementation of the protocol will provide effective nutritional education and establishment of feeding centers a cross the country to help fight the reduction of the high rate of infant and child motility rate, hoping that this protocol will provide free health care delivery to children when implemented.
First Lady Sia Koroma officially launched the national protocol for severe acute malnutrition and certification of lactating mothers.
Several stakeholders and female musicians were also present and performed a skit on breastfeeding which formed a highpoint on the commencement of world breastfeeding week, which is expected to end on the 7th of August 2008.
By Saidu Bah