MOGADISHU, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- Somalia and two United Nations agencies on Monday vowed to step up efforts to ensure breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies in all health facilities and workplaces in the country.
The Ministry of Health, World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF said national efforts will be stepped up with the main goal to increase the number of babies aged 0-6 months old who are exclusively breastfed to above 50 percent by 2025.
Minister of Health and Human Services Fawziya Abikar Nur said breastfeeding must be considered a public health issue that requires capacity and education at all levels.
"All the support systems, from the family, community, and health facilities, should be educated and capacitated to support mothers to optimally breastfeed their babies," Nur said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, to mark the World Breastfeeding Week.
According to the latest government data, only 34 percent of babies under six months are exclusively breastfed.
The ministry and the UN agencies said breastfeeding-friendly environments for mothers and babies would help improve exclusive breastfeeding rates among Somali women and adequate nutrition and health among Somali children in both the short and long term.
This is part of a global call to action to "Step up for breastfeeding: educate and support," they said.
World Breastfeeding Week comes at a time when Somalia is witnessing an increase in child malnutrition, including a reduction in infant and young child feeding practices, due to steep declines in household incomes, among other challenges.
Shocks such as drought, flooding, conflict, displacement, and disease outbreaks like measles and COVID-19 have deepened inequalities and resulted in nutrition insecurity, said the UN agencies.
WHO Representative to Somalia and Head of Mission Mamunur Rahman Malik said in a fragile country like Somalia, affected by conflict and recurring emergencies such as drought, COVID-19, and other diseases, breastfeeding is an effective way to ensure child health and survival.
The two UN agencies recommend early initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, feeding the child only breast milk for the first six months, and continuing to breastfeed for up to 24 months or beyond, with the introduction of timely, nutritionally adequate, and safe complementary, solid foods at six months.
During the Week, breastfeeding awareness campaigns will be launched throughout the country, and skilled breastfeeding counseling will be provided in various settings, including health facilities and clinics and through home visits by community health workers. ■