Thursday December 12, 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

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.

UN, Breastfeed, Babies
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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UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres Warns Countries Advocating Fossil Fuels

Antonio Guterres called on the nations that aren't taking action against climate change

Antonio Guterres
UN Sec-Gen Antonio Guterres warns countries advocating usage of fossil fuels. Wikimedia Commons


United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday in a stern warning called on the nations advocating for fossil fuels and creating roadblocks in carbon neutral transition asking them to end those activities soon.

“I also call on anyone who is still lobbying their governments for a slow transition or even no transition – to end those activities now. The world is watching,” he emphasised in his address in the final week of the United Nations climate talks, COP25, which is being hosted in Madrid.

Shifting taxes from income to carbon, ending subsidies for fossil fuels, and ending investments in and construction of coal plants by 2020 are all efforts that will benefit from bold and genuine business buy-in and support, he said.

In 2020, many governments will present enhanced Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). We expect to see carbon neutrality strategies for 2050, and the decarbonisation of key sectors, such as energy, industry, construction and transport, added the UN Secretary General.

“In support of these efforts, I am calling on you, leaders from the private sector, to challenge your governments to use this opportunity to make clear their economic development policies that will enable your companies to invest decisively in a net-zero future,” Guterres said.

“We are still seeing too many bureaucratic and regulatory obstacles, including perverse fossil fuel subsidies and many other expressions of government action slowing down the private sector commitment to climate action.

Antonio Guterres
Antonio Guterres calls on leaders from private sectors to challenge their governements. Wikimedia Commons

“Only through positive ambition can private and public partners successfully drive ambitious climate action, particularly in hard-to-abate sectors,” the UN chief said.

To limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, there is a need to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality by 2050.

“While we see some incremental steps towards sustainable business models, it is nowhere near the scope or scale required. What we need is not an incremental approach, but a transformational one. We need businesses to unite behind the science by taking rapid and ambitious action across their operations and value chains,” Guterres said.

I am encouraged that more than 170 major companies have already committed to set scientific, verifiable emission reduction targets aligned with a 1.5-degree future through the aBusiness Ambition for 1.5 degrees’ campaign, he added.

By stepping up and setting science-based targets, these companies are pioneering new ways of doing business and driving systemic change throughout the global economy,” he said.

They are also sending a clear signal to consumers, investors and governments that they intend to lead as the global economy undergoes a just transition to a net-zero future by 2050.

At the same time, the financial community is increasingly demonstrating commitment to the opportunities of a green economy.

UN secretary Antonio Guterres
“Only through positive ambition can private and public partners successfully drive ambitious climate action,” says Antonio Guterres. Wikimedia Commons

Investors managing close to $4 trillion dollars in assets have committed to converting their investment portfolios to net-zero emissions by 2050 through the UN-convened Net Zero Asset Owner Alliance, and the markets are shifting more and more each day, Guterres said.

But business and financial actors can’t do this alone, he stressed.

“As we saw at the Climate Action Summit in September, the determination demonstrated by business and financial leaders offers a potential path of hope. As businesses back away from fossil fuels it helps send market signals to massively scale up innovative solutions. While we thank those leaders, we urgently need more to join and shift the pace to higher gears,” Guterres said.

The magnitude of the climate crisis is jeopardizing our future and life on the planet as we know it. Climate change is already disrupting people, business operations, economies and ecosystems around the world.

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More than ever we need governments, regions, cities, businesses and civil society to work together towards a common goal of a more just, sustainable and prosperous world,” he said, adding he has come back to COP25 to appeal for a successful conclusion of the conference and increased climate action and ambition, he noted. (IANS)