On August 3rd, USAID through MCHIP celebrated with other stakeholders in Zimbabwe as they launched the 10th anniversary of the implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (GSIYCF), adopted by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.
[Above: MCHIP staff with the MOHCW Nutrition Department (at back) overlooking the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Mombeshora, as he reads information, education and communication materials produced by MCHIP.]
The first week of August is also World Breastfeeding Week. For the past 20 years, more than 100 countries across the globe have dedicated this week in August to promoting one of the most unique features of a woman – the ability to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need and to ensure optimal nutrition for the first two years of a child's life.
[Above: Village Health Workers perform at the launch, emphasizing the importance of breastfeeding.]
Global statistics according to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children Report 2011 show that 136.7 million babies are born worldwide and only 32.6% of them are breastfed exclusively in the first six months. In Zimbabwe, results from the latest national nutrition survey reveal that 5.8% of children are exclusively breastfed through six months of age, showing that a significant number of babies are deprived of the benefits of breast milk and their mothers are missing out on a precious opportunity to bond with their babies.
The Global Strategy aims to increase breastfeeding rates, especially exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and to reach Millennium Development Goal 4. Focus was on planning for the future with the help of an assessment of the implementation that had identified gaps in policy and programs related to breastfeeding and IYCF.
The Zimbabwe launch comes at a vital time when the country's women are facing demands and challenges related to economic hardships, while at the same time taking up their role as mothers. The campaign works to demystify the invaluable benefits of exclusive breastfeeding practices for the first six months and continued breastfeeding with complementary indigenous foods for up to two years and beyond.
[Above: Dr. Douglas T. Mombeshora, the Hon. Deputy Minister of Health and Child Welfare, as he gives his speech.]
MCHIP is committed to supporting and promoting breastfeeding practices in Zimbabwe through the production of information, education and communication materials, and through trainings for health care workers on effectively integrating implementation of the IYCF Global Strategy.
[Above: Examples of MCHIP-produced information, education and communication materials.]
These efforts will go a long way in benefiting the Zimbabwe nation as whole, as they contribute to reduced child morbidity and mortality. As they say, where there is a healthy mother, there is a healthy baby!
Sandra Lorraine Katurura
MCHIP Program Assistant, Zimbabwe