#Jamaica, September 21, Kingston – Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has reiterated calls for mothers to consider exclusive breastfeeding of their babies for the first six months of life in order to reduce infant mortality and morbidity rates. He noted that appropriate breastfeeding practices have the potential to lower infant mortality in children five years old and younger by 14 per cent, while appropriate complementary feeding up to two years of age can prevent an additional six per cent of deaths among the age cohort.
The Minister, who was addressing the National Breastfeeding Week conference and launch at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, on Tuesday (September 19), said the target is for 50 per cent of infants to be exclusively breastfeeding at six months of age. He noted that in 2005, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding at six months was 15.1 per cent, increasing to 23.8 per cent in 2011.
“However, this is still well off course to meet the Global Nutrition Target of at least 50 per cent by 2025,” he said.
Dr. Tufton said Jamaica is committed to reducing infant mortality and morbidity, and has agreed to, or has endorsed several international agreements and goals that are aimed at promoting and protecting infant and young child health. He said that gains are being made, but there is still much work to be done to achieve the targets. He is urging persons to become informed about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Research has shown that breastfeeding helps to reduce the risk of childhood asthma and obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) later in life, such as diabetes and heart disease. Long durations of breastfeeding also protect maternal health by helping to lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers.
Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Winston De La Haye, said National Breastfeeding Week is being observed from September 17 to 23 under the theme ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding Together’ and emphasises that “all sectors, all groups have a role to play in supporting breastfeeding”.
He said the objectives of the two-day conference are to highlight the role of infant and young child feeding in the achievement of the sustainable development goals, share current elements of the benefits and impact of breastfeeding and effective strategies for the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.
It is in keeping with World Breastfeeding Week 2017, observed by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in August through partnership with World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), along with civil society groups.
Also at the launch were Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO Representative in Jamaica, Bermuda and Cayman Islands, Dr. Noreen Jack; UNICEF Representative in Jamaica, Mark Connolly; and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Representative in Jamaica, The Bahamas and Belize, Dr. Gillian Smith.