East Africa: The Superfood With the Potential to Save Hundreds and Thousands of Children’s Lives

Monday, August 5, 2013

Imagine a food that is free, nutritious and has the potential to save thousands of children’s lives. Well there’s no need to imagine it, it already exists – a mother’s milk; breastfeeding is one of the most powerful weapons we have to fight child mortality.
The 1st-7th August is World Breastfeeding Week which, each year, presents an important opportunity to put the spotlight on the importance of breastfeeding for saving children’s lives. But this can’t just be a one week effort; we need strong leadership and political action all year round to promote it.

According to the medical journal, the Lancet, suboptimum breastfeeding results in more than 800,000 child deaths annually. If we can ensure that every newborn is given breast milk immediately after birth and is fed only breast milk for the first six months, we can greatly increase the chance that they will survive and go on to fulfil their potential. Around one in eight of the young lives lost each year could be prevented through breastfeeding, making it one of the most effective of all ways to prevent the diseases and malnutrition that can cause child deaths.

It is estimated that 3.1 million children die from malnutrition each year. Despite significant progress in reducing child mortality, 1 in 9 children in Africa still do not live to see their fifth birthday. Breastfeeding is not only crucial for tackling malnutrition and saving children’s lives, it also has the potential to have tangible impacts on the economic and social development of countries across Africa. Malnutrition can undermine future earning potential by as much as 20% and can inhibit growth of GDP by as much as 2-3%. Today’s malnutrition will knock $125bn off the global economy by 2030, when these children reach working age.

Source: AllAfrica (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
nutrition, rural development