Tuesday February 18, 2020

WHO: Breastfeeding Gives Babies The Best Start in Life

The report warns that formula or other drinks must not be given to newborns unless absolutely necessary

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WHO vows tighter, broader action against tobacco, industry interference.

Breastfeeding babies within an hour of birth significantly increases their chances of survival, the World Health Organization reports, citing data from 76 countries that find that mother’s milk is rich in health-giving nutrients and antibodies.

However, only 40 percent of infants are breastfed in the first hour of life, according to WHO’s infant and young child feeding specialist, Laurence Grummer-Strawn.

“The delay of breastfeeding puts the babies at increased risk of infection and ultimately increases their risk of death. Just delaying beyond the first hour can increase mortality by about one-third, and waiting until the second day doubles the rate of mortality,” he said.

The worst rates are found in East Asia and the Pacific, where only 32 percent of babies are breastfed in the first hour after birth, Grummer-Strawn said. He added that the numbers are much better in Africa, with eastern and southern Africa seeing average rates of 65 percent.

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Mothers breastfeed their newborn babies in the natal intermediate care unit at the Santa Ana public maternity hospital in Caracas, Oct. 22, 2011. (VOA)

“What is interesting is this varies tremendously from country to country,” he said. “As we look across Africa, you can see some countries that have very low rates, as low as 20 percent, but other countries, as high as 90 percent. Similarly, in Asia, a substantial difference from one country to another country in these rates.”

Grummer-Strawn says the difference in rates is not driven by regional patterns, but is mainly driven by the kind of education and medical care prevalent within a country.

Also Read: WHO Adds ‘Gaming Disorder’ In The List Of Mental Health Condition

The report warns that formula or other drinks must not be given to newborns unless absolutely necessary. It says formula can be dangerous because it sometimes is mixed with contaminated water and delays the infant’s first critical contact with his or her mother. (VOA)

Next Story

WHO Committee Warns About Ebola Outbreak in Congo

Ebola in Eastern DRC Remains Global Health Threat

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Medical workers lead a young girl with suspected Ebola into the unconfirmed Ebola patients ward run by The Alliance for International Medical Action (ALIMA). VOA

A World Health Organization Emergency Committee warns the Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo remains a global health threat despite significant progress in containing the spread of this deadly virus.   WHO reports a total of 3,431 cases of Ebola, including 2,253 deaths in North Kivu and Ituri provinces.

The Emergency Committee declared the outbreak in DRC a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, or PHEIC, last July.  In reviewing the current situation, members of the Committee decided it was premature to declare the global threat over.

WHO Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, says he accepts the Committee’s advice.

“As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic,” he said.

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Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a news conference after a meeting of the Emergency Committee on the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

WHO has revised its risk assessment from very high to high at national and regional levels, and low at the global level.  Last week, it reports only three new cases of the disease in North Kivu’s Beni Health Zone.  Tedros calls these signs extremely positive.

“But even as we near the end of this outbreak, we must act now to prevent the next one…Only half of health facilities have access to water.  Strengthening a health system may not be as sexy as responding to an outbreak, but it is equally important,” he said.

Tedros is traveling to DRC’s capital Kinshasa on Thursday.  The WHO chief says he will meet President Felix Tshisekedi and other senior ministers to explore ways to strengthen DRC’s health system.

Chair of the Emergency Committee, Robert Steffen explains why the group decided to maintain the PHEIC despite cautious optimism that the Ebola epidemic was winding down.

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“We do see a risk of some resurgence and also a risk of complacency if we would now suddenly abandon this PHEIC despite of the fact that we still occasionally still see new cases,” he said.

Another problem, Steffen says, is lack of money.  He says WHO needs $83 million to carry out its Ebola operation until June.  So far, less than half of the required amount has been received. (VOA)