Poor feeding for infants leads to nearly onefifth of childhood deaths –

Infants who are not adequately breastfed are left with limited defences against fatal diseases like pneumonia and diarrhoea and lack essential nutrients to develop body and mind, according to UNICEF. Currently, an estimated 63 per cent of children less than six months in the developing world are not breastfed adequately in the critical period if at all.“Exclusive breastfeeding is ideal nourishment for babies up to six months old,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman. “In a developing country, a child that is not breastfed is about three times more likely to die in early infancy than a breastfed child, and exclusive breastfeeding reduces the risk still further.”To mark this year’s Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF is emphasizing not only the six-month period of exclusive breastfeeding, but also a program of continued breastfeeding combined with safe, appropriate complementary feeding for two years or longer.The damage to children from lack of adequate breastfeeding and lack of good nutrition in the first two years of life can be permanent, the agency said. In addition to early death, immune-system weakness, stunted growth and compromised intelligence are possible long-term consequences.UNICEF said it works with partners, governments and communities to protect and promote breastfeeding by supporting national infant-feeding legislation, improving ante- and post-natal care and boosting resources for new mothers at the community-level. It added that a priority is the protection of breastfeeding during emergencies, when poor feeding practices can allow diseases to claim lives with frightening speed.During this year’s world Week, the agency is making special efforts to spread the message about breastfeeding and good infant nutrition. In Lofa County of Liberia, for example, UNICEF social mobilizers are partnering with an estimated 50 communities to help educate mothers about the issue.

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