Although breastfeeding is a common practice in the country, only 40 per cent of children are exclusively breastfed in the first six months according, to the 2018 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS). It is within this backdrop that the Minister of Public Health, Malachie Manaouda and health partners, yesterday October 22, 2019 in Yaounde launched the 2019 National Breastfeeding Week with a call for all parents and medical personnel to adhere and encourage exclusive breastfeeding for all babies between zero and six months. The week is being commemorated under the theme: “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”
Minister Malachie Manaouda used the occasion to underscore the importance of breastfeeding to the health of babies and that of the mother. Referring to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, he said breastfeeding is the proper way to provide infants with all the nutrients they need to grow and develop optimally, for the yellowish and thick milk secretion produced at the end of pregnancy is recommended as the perfect food for all newborn babies to be taken from the first hour after birth. The Minister of Public Health lamented that although exclusive breastfeeding is recommended for the first six months and from six months, supplemented with adequate food, many parents do not adhere to the norm. As such, Dr Malachie Manaouda said this has resulted in chronic malnutrition, poor health, hygiene and sanitation as well as poor feeding practices for most children. The Minister noted that only 48 per cent of infants are breastfed within one hour of birth, while the rate of exclusive bread feeding does not exceed 40 per cent. Despite the worrying situation, pilot projects to implement the promotion of infants and young children feeding are being scaled up throughout the country. That is why the Director of the Mother and Child Centre of the Chantal Biya Foundation, Professor Koki Ndombo, highlighted the importance to commit to the implementation of strategies that have been successful in encouraging exclusive breastfeeding. An example is the “Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative” and the strict application of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and relevant resolutions of the World Health Assemblies.
The Country Representative of WHO, Dr Phanuel Habimana, said his organisation through resolutions of the World Health Assemblies encourages member States to promote exclusive breastfeeding to 50 per cent by the year 2025. Given that Cameroon’s breastfeeding rate is already at 40 per cent, Dr Habimana said this is good news for the country which is left with 10 per cent increase to reach the 2025 target. He used the occasion to encourage partners and parents to reinforce efforts in ensuring exclusive breastfeeding.