Somalia, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization on Monday called for concerted efforts to ensure breastfeeding-friendly environments in all health facilities and workplaces to help improve breastfeeding in the country to boost nutrition and health of Somali children.
“We are calling on parents, families, community leaders, policymakers and development partners to actively step up capacity and transform systems at all levels to support breastfeeding adequately,” Somalia’s Health Minister Fawziya Abikar Nur said in a statement in connection with World Breastfeeding Week, marked annually from Aug. 1-7 in more than 120 countries.
She stressed the need for all support systems, from family, community and health facilities, to be educated to ensure support for mothers to optimally breastfeed their babies.
“This includes breastfeeding right from birth through early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of the child’s life, and continued breastfeeding up to two years and beyond,” she said.
Wafaa Saeed, a UNICEF representative in Somalia, said breastfeeding provides children the best start in life.
“Breast milk helps prevent infections, promotes bonding between mother and child, regardless of setting, and provides food and nutrition security to infants from the very beginning of life, contributing to the food security of the whole family,” she said.
In a fragile country like Somalia, affected by conflict and recurring emergencies such as drought, COVID-19, and other diseases, breastfeeding is an effective way to ensure child health and survival, she added.
Citing latest government data, the statement said only 34% of babies under six months are exclusively breastfed in Somalia.
Efforts under the country’s national nutrition strategy 2020-2025 will be scaled up with the primary goal to increase the number of babies aged 0-6 months old who are exclusively breastfed to above 50% by 2025, it added.