Monday August 26, 2019

U.N. Agencies Urging Governments to Encourage Mothers to Breastfeed Their Babies

The World Health Organization and U.N. Children’s Fund say breastfed babies have the best chance of enjoying a healthy, productive life

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FILE - Some 170 mothers breastfeed their children during a mass breastfeeding event inside a military headquarters in Taguig City, metro Manila, August 2, 2014. VOA

Leading U.N. agencies are urging governments to adopt family-friendly policies to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies at home and at work. The World Health Organization and U.N. Children’s Fund say breastfed babies have the best chance of enjoying a healthy, productive life.

Health experts agree both mothers and babies reap tremendous benefits from breastfeeding. They say nursing mothers run lower risks of getting ovarian cancer, breast cancer and Type 2 diabetes.

For babies, there are both short-term and long-term benefits. They say mother’s milk supports healthy brain development in babies and boosts their immune systems so they can better fight off infections.

A U.N. survey finds wealthier countries have the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world, with fewer than 25 percent of babies being exclusively breastfed. This compares with Rwanda where nearly 90 percent of babies are breastfed and other countries such as Burundi and Sri Lanka, which have high rates of well over 80 percent.

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Leading U.N. agencies are urging governments to adopt family-friendly policies to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies at home and at work. Pixabay

The technical officer in WHO’s nutrition department, Laurence Grummer-Strawn, tells VOA children in the richer countries would enjoy long-term benefits from breastfeeding.

“Babies who are breast fed are actually less likely to become obese when they are older children,” said Grummer-Strawn. “They have lower risks of SIDS or sudden infant death syndrome. They have lower risk of leukemia…And, in low income countries, it reduces risks of respiratory infections and diarrhea that are some of the big killers of children.”

WHO reports increasing breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 deaths in children under five every year and 20,000 annual deaths from breast cancer. Additionally, Grummer-Strawn says a World Bank analysis finds investing in increasing breastfeeding would produce huge returns.

“They estimated for every dollar that is spent to promote, protect and support breastfeeding, $35 would be saved in economic gains around the world,” said Grummer-Strawn. “The overall estimate is that on an annual basis, we lose $302 billion in global productivity because of the lack of breastfeeding.”

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WHO and UNICEF are calling on governments to support breastfeeding by enacting paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks; as well as paid paternity leave to encourage shared caring of children on an equal basis.
They say employers should support nursing mothers returning to work by providing them with a private, hygienic space for breastfeeding and expressing and storing milk. (VOA)

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U.N. Secretary-General to Travel to Epicenter of Ebola Outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo

The DRC is no stranger to periodic outbreaks of the Ebola virus, but this most recent epidemic is the worst the African nation has seen in 40 years

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FILE - Health workers begin their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, July 16, 2019. The Ebola outbreak has been declared an international emergency after it spread to eastern Congo's biggest city, Goma, this week. VOA

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week.

The DRC is no stranger to periodic outbreaks of the Ebola virus, but this most recent epidemic is the worst the African nation has seen in 40 years.

The World Health Organization says the country has recorded more than 2,800 confirmed cases and at least 1,900 deaths from the virus, which spreads primarily through contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected fruit bats or monkeys.

Guterres plans to visit the country for three days, arriving Aug. 31. His spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that Guterres wants to assess the situation and mobilize additional support for the response.

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U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will travel to the epicenter of an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo next week. Pixabay

“In the province of North Kivu, he is scheduled to meet with Ebola survivors and health workers during a visit to an Ebola treatment center,” Dujarric said.

He also is to meet with Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi in the capital, Kinshasa.

In July, the WHO declared the Ebola outbreak to be a public health emergency of international concern.

The majority of cases have been concentrated in North Kivu and Ituri provinces, in the country’s northeast, but cases have emerged in other parts of the country.

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At least three cases were also confirmed in June in neighboring Uganda. The people infected with the virus there had traveled from the DRC and had been in contact with a relative who died of Ebola. (VOA)