KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday called for the revival of breastfeeding among urban mothers and the implementation of Sindh Promotion and Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance 2013, passed by the Sindh Assembly in February this year.
They were speaking at an event titled ‘Saving newborn lives by early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding’, jointly organised by the Health Education and Literacy Programme (HELP) and Research and Advocacy Fund.
Sindh health secretary Inamullah Dharejo said that people can be saved from many diseases only by promotion of simple and cost-effective strategies, especially breastfeeding, and this should be the top priority of the provincial health department.
He said that the neglected tradition must be revived while lamenting that there were a lot of myths in society regarding the subject.
He termed passage of the breastfeeding ordinance as a major achievement and said that all efforts would be made for its implementation in letter and spirit. Answering a question, Mr Dharejo said a board would be formed to facilitate and monitor the implementation of the law.
He lamented that even though Pakistan was the seventh largest milk producer in the world, $532 worth of milk powder was still imported every year.
Director general of health services Dr Ashfaq Memon said that breastfeeding was a deep-rooted tradition and there existed adequate realisation, especially in the rural areas, about its healthy impact on mental, emotional and physical growth of babies.
“All we need is capacity building for changing the behaviour of mothers, families and health care providers,” he said.
Dr Memon said that the sharp decline in the breastfeeding trend in urban areas of the province called for community involvement.
HELP coordinator Prof. D. S. Akram said that breastfeeding a child for two years not only improved his immunity but also provided natural immunity, saving the child from a wide range of infections, but it also offered an opportunity for much-needed child spacing which was equally important for mothers and their babies. Responding to suggestions forwarded by doctors present at the seminar, Dr Akram agreed that obstetricians and gynaecologists must be involved in the campaign for advocacy of breast feeding, since doctors were in a better position to tell mothers about the important of breast feeding.
She recommended initiating an educational programme for girls in high schools and called for an integrated nutrition strategy with active involvement of lady health workers, general physicians and community leaders to change public perception for breast feeding, vaccination and family planning.