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NewsFood & Hunger

More Than 1,500 Mothers Breastfeed Together to Combat Child Deaths in the Philippines

Why Global Citizens Should Care
As a practical step toward protecting the survival and health of babies and women, breastfeeding is a central part of the UN’s Global Goals, and help drive progress towards goals for zero hunger, gender equality, health, and ending extreme poverty. You can join us by taking action hereto support maternal and child health. 

More than 1,500 mothers in the Philippines have come together to breastfeed their children, as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the health benefits of breastfeeding. 

The women gathered in the capital city, Manila — but it was one of 62 mass breastfeeding events held across the Philippines over the weekend, according to reports.

“It’s an empowering moment,” first-time mother Joyce Balido told AFP news agency. “It was very difficult to establish a milk supply at first. I am sleep-starved but I committed myself to have my daughter exclusively breastfed.” 

“Breastfeeding is love,” added Abegirl Limjap, who nursed her two sons at the event. “It is difficult, but we do it for love.”

Take action: Help Ensure All Parents Know About the Benefits of Breastfeeding

The campaign is a government effort to increase breastfeeding rates in the country, after the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations’ Children’s Fund (UNICEF) jointly urged the government to take action last year. 

While some mothers aren't able to breastfeed, many mothers around the world don't realize that the health benefits of breastmilk outweigh those of breastmilk substitutes and baby formula — and it's these mothers that the campaign is targetting.

Already, the event has seen significant growth since last year’s mass breastfeeding event — which saw 25 events held across the country. 

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The two agencies — WHO and UNICEF — recommend that children be given breastmilk within the first hour of birth, and fed exclusively on breast milk for the first six months. 

But globally 3 in 5 babies aren’t breastfed within the first hour of being born, according to a report released by the two agencies at the end of July, and this is putting them at higher risk of death and disease.

“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything,” said Henrietta H. Fore, UNICEF executive director, in a statement in July. “In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death. Yet each year, millions of newborns miss out on the benefits of early breastfeeding and the reasons — all too often — are things we can change.” 

“Mothers simply don’t receive enough support to breastfeed within those crucial minutes after birth, even from medical personnel at health facilities,” she added. 

In fact, delays in breastfeeding is threatening the health of 78 million newborns around the world, according to the Guardian. And in the Philippines, around 7,500 children under 2 years old die every year because of undernutrition resulting from inadequate breastfeeding practice. 

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In 2017, UNICEF and WHO called on the Philippine government to increase national investments to raise breastfeeding rates, after they found that a “low” 34% of Filipino children under six months are breastfed exclusively. 

The agencies emphasised the “strong need” to increase government investment in health and nutrition — with around 2.8 million Filipino children under 2 years old found to be undernourished due to sub-optimal breastfeeding practices in 2015. 

“Children’s right to life, healthy growth, and developing is non-negotiable,” said Lotta Sylwander, UNICEF's Philippines representative. 

“This is why we need support from the highest level of government in advancing policies and supporting investments for our children and mothers’ health and nutrition, right at the onset of pregnancy and all the way to the child’s second birthday,” she said.

According to the 2017 Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, just 40% of children younger than 6 months old are breastfed exclusively — and only 23 countries have achieved exclusive breastfeeding rates about 60%.

According to WHO and Unicef, evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. During the first six months of life it’s especially critical, largely for helping prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants.