Breastfeeding in emergencies: a concern of survival


Kitham is a Syrian refugee who shares a shelter with her partner, children, mom and 2 sisters in a casual tented settlement in Jib Janine, in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.When she delivered last May to her sixth child, her baby had some health problems and the physicians didn’t let her feed him for numerous days. I lost my milk, Khitam said, so I fed him formula but he was getting thinner. Weeks later on, as her infant’s health deteriorated, Kitham carried him many kilometers on foot to look for assistance at the closest health Centre. When we initially saw baby Manhal, we believed he may not make it, says Fatima Al Hayek, lactation consultant with International Orthodox Christian Charities.Infant Manhal was immediately hospitalized and continued to be in health center for 3 weeks, during which time his mother was helped to reboot her milk supply, and Manhal gradually put on weight and strength. I seem like my son was born again, says Khitam, and I am still breastfeeding him.


Manhal was one of the luckier ones, however an estimated 820 000 children pass away every year because they were not breastfed in line with WHO recommendations that is, fed absolutely nothing however breast milk for 6 months, after which they need to continue breastfeeding along with consuming other foods up until 2 years of age. A child who is not breastfed for his or her very first 6 months of life is more than 14 times most likely to pass away compared with a child who gets bust milk only. Breastfeeding has major benefits for mom’s health too, by reducing rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes.Breastfeeding becomes even more critical for survival in humanitarian emergencies. Whether caused by conflict or natural disasters, emergencies jeopardize the health of populations, and young children are among the most vulnerable.


Challenges in breastfeeding


Humanitarian emergencies pose unique difficulties for safeguarding, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. First, unrestrained circulation of breast-milk substitutes (consisting of infant formula) is typically an issue. Well-meaning donors might send products of breast-milk substitutes to feed starving children, not realizing that babies and children who are not breastfed are vulnerable to infection and to developing diarrhea. They can then easily end up being malnourished and dehydrated therefore are at genuine danger of death. Even in nations with proper implementation of the International Code that governs the marketing of breast-milk alternatives, enforcement may break down in emergencies. Feeding with a breast-milk alternative always brings dangers, and these are increased in emergencies since there may be no clean water with which making up infant formula or to clean bottles and teats. Breast-milk substitutes should only be used as a last resort.


Second, the normal networks of friends and family that assist mothers who have troubles breastfeeding are often not easily accessible in emergencies. Health employees who are trained in breastfeeding therapy and lactation management are typically redeployed to direct emergency reaction activities, leaving moms with nobody to count on for assistance.Tension and disturbance of daily regimens position brand-new difficulties for breastfeeding women, increasing the need for support.Third, emergencies typically cause displacement. It may be challenging for mothers to discover comfortable, private places to breastfeed. How critical this issue is depending considerably on the cultural context where the emergency situation takes place.Humanitarian companies should safeguard, promote, and assistance breastfeeding in emergencies. Policies need to be in place that restrict the contribution of breast-milk alternatives and manage their procurement and distribution in emergencies, based on proper needs assessments. In emergencies where not enough nutrient-rich food is available, these women need to be given vitamin and mineral supplements.


There are examples of emergencies where this has worked well. Save the Children Jordan established mother-baby friendly areas in caravans and promoted them as safe sanctuaries for breastfeeding, where privacy and assistance were offered for all pregnant women and mothers with children under the age of 5. Daily education sessions were held in the caravans on the significance of breastfeeding, which foods to provide to children aged 6 months to 2 years, and how to feed a young kid who is ill.


Immediately after the very first earthquake, a statement was provided stressing the significance of breastfeeding and banning the general circulation of breast-milk replacements. Radio Nepal and community and private radio stations reached 380 000 families with info on the advantages of breastfeeding, the dangers of breast-milk alternatives and other vital nutrition messages.


A key lifesaving intervention


All frequently, breastfeeding is neglected as a vital lifesaving intervention, especially in emergencies. At the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, we need to make sure that breastfeeding is leading of mind amongst all those involved in funding, planning and executing an emergency reaction.


We have to enhance awareness among the humanitarian community that, however well-intentioned, unsolicited donations of baby formula, bottles and artificial teats in emergency situation settings put babies lives at danger and that these contributions need to be declined. We have to quash the typical mistaken belief that mothers cannot breastfeed adequately in difficult settings or if they have bad nutrition.


Federal governments have to ensure that monetary and human resources dedicated to supporting breastfeeding belong to their emergency preparedness plans.One of the essential issues up for conversation at the Summit is the best ways to decrease dependence on international assistance and build neighborhood resilience. Promoting and supporting breastfeeding is a best example of something that nations can do, not just to save lives in emergencies, however to give children who are having such a challenging start in life a much better possibility for a brighter future.


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