A PALTRY 14% of Zimbabwean mothers breastfeed their babies up to the recommended two years, with the majority of mothers rushing to wean off their babies below the stipulated cut-off point, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has observed.
BY MUNESU NYAKUDYA
The United Nations agency raised the concern yesterday in a statement to mark commemorations of World Breastfeeding Week.
The commemorations are held annually between August 1 and 7 to raise awareness on the benefits of breastfeeding.
“Ninety-eight percent of children in Zimbabwe are breastfed, with 48% being exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life and 14% breastfed until they are two years old,” Unicef said.
“There are several breastfeeding issues, which include early introduction of porridge and traditional herbs, inadequate complementary feeding, fontanelle issues, and mothers thinking that they do not produce enough breast milk, among others.”
Breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and mothers and is especially critical during the first six months of life, helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of infant deaths.
Unicef also said mothers, who breastfeed, have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, which are among the leading causes of death among women.
The UN body noted that globally, investment in breastfeeding was far too low.
Each year, governments in lower- and middle-income countries spend approximately $250 million on breastfeeding programmes as donors provide an additional $85 million.
Unicef described breastfeeding as critical for the achievement of many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It improves nutrition (SDG2), prevents child mortality and decreases the risk of non-communicable diseases (SDG3), and supports cognitive development and education (SDG4).”