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UN In Laos Celebrates World Breastfeeding Week

World Breastfeeding Week, 1-7 August 2016

VIENTIANE CAPITAL – August marks the start of World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August to encourage exclusive breastfeeding and improve babies’ health as a key practice to support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) by 2030.

Exclusive breastfeeding means new-borns receive only breast milk during their first 6 months of life, without any additional food or drink, as breast milk provides infants with all the energy and nutrients they need, and continues to be a key supplement to their growth during the first two years of life.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth and until the baby is 6 months old. Globally, some 77 million newborns – or 1 in 2 – are not put to the breast within an hour of birth, depriving them of the essential nutrients, antibodies and skin-to-skin contact with their mother that protect them from disease and death.

Although, Laos has made considerable progress toward improving the number of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their children to 6 months of age, only 40 percent of babies receive this important good start in life. Formula use in Lao PDR has also increased substantially. The use of powdered milk or other breastmilk substitutes more than tripled between 2006 and 2011, increasing by approximately 15 per cent in urban areas. Research also shows that formula is being used increasingly in many of the country’s most remote areas.

A practice as simple as exclusive breastfeeding can save the lives of over 800,000 children under five worldwide every year, as it reduces the risk of child mortality. It can improve a child’s survival by six times compared to non-breastfed children, it also enhances a child’s immunity against respiratory infections, diarrhoea and other life-threatening illnesses; it helps prevent children from developing obesity and non-communicable diseases such as asthma and diabetes later in life. Exclusive breastfeeding does not only benefit the child, but also the mother, by helping prevent certain types of cancer and diabetes. Encouraging nursing mothers to breastfeed their newborns and creating a more breastfeeding-friendly environment can have a positive impact on children’s futures.

In Laos, the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) work together under the Joint Mother and Child Health and Nutrition Programme, implemented in all provinces and funded by the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg.

Through this programme, the UN agencies promote exclusive breastfeeding as a key to sustainable development. Besides the benefits to children’s health, growth development and better survival rates, breastfeeding helps children reach their full human and socio-economic potential.  

On World Breastfeeding Week, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF in Laos have developed and will be broadcasting a video and TV spots promoting breastfeeding in the country, both on TV and through social media. UN social media channels will also be promoting breastfeeding during the week.

Promoting exclusive breastfeeding requires involving all sectors and engaging the Government of Laos, development partners and private sector companies to help ensure the children of Laos have a healthy start and better opportunities.

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For more information please contact:
WHO/ Irene Tan, Communications Officer, tani@wpro.who.int   +856 21 353 90 24
UNICEF/ Marc Vergara, Chief of Communications, mvergara@unicef.org  +856 20 555 19681
WFP/ Rocio Rebollo Perez, Head of Communications and External Relations, Rocio.rebollo@wfp.org +856 020 555 26 957
UNFPA/ Vanly Lorkuangming, Communications Associate, lorkuangming@unfpa.org