Unicef welcomes breast-feeding decision

2010-12-02 15:03

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) today welcomed a decision by KwaZulu-Natal’s department of health to promote breast-feeding amongst all mothers, including HIV positive ones.

“It commended the provincial authority for being the first province to take clear steps to introduce new guidance and counselling to HIV positive mothers to prevent the transmission of HIV to their newborns as well as tackle high rates of malnutrition,” said United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) spokeswoman Shantha Bloemen in a statement.

She said the new policy was a response to new World Health Organisation guidelines.

The policy would provide counselling and support breast-feeding for HIV positive mothers, while ensuring they continued to take antiretrovirals (ARVs)

“This decision to keep mothers and infants on ARV therapy while they breast-feed, will help to reduce the transmission of HIV yet make sure the child benefits from breast milk and reduce high rates of malnutrition.”

Previously, HIV positive mothers would be provided with formula to prevent the virus spreading through breast milk.

“Although this may have helped to reduce transmission rates it has contributed to higher rates of malnutrition and diarrhoea, often caused by lack of safe water and poor infant feeding practices.”

Bloemen said malnutrition was the underlying cause of 60% of all deaths among children.

Unicef also said it was working with the national department of health to support the finalisation of the regulations on the marketing of breast milk substitutes,

“[This is] to ensure that mothers and their families are not subjected to wide-scale aggressive marketing practices of formula milk companies.”

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