Child advocate group wants gov’t to boost breastfeeding drive amid pandemic
MANILA, Philippines — Save the Children Philippines wants the government to strengthen its breastfeeding campaign as the country moves through a COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic crisis.
In its message for the 30th year of the Innocenti Declaration ratified in 1990, the child advocate groups said that proper and optimal breastfeeding would be needed more than ever as families try to limit spending during this crisis.
“The Philippine economy is in recession and children from the poorest families will bear its harshest impact as they continue to be deprived of their rights to food and nutrition due to steep declines in household incomes, lost livelihoods, unemployment, and health and social protection services disruption amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” lawyer Alberto Muyot, chief executive officer of Save the Children Philippines, said in a statement issued on Saturday.
Last Thursday, the government admitted that the country’s economy had shrunk by 16.5 percent just in the second quarter of 2020, which meant that the country had already fallen into a recession.
This is due to limited market movement as the government enforced several lockdowns in Luzon and other parts of the country since March this year, to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Currently, Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna — areas with a high economic activity — are again placed under a modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ).
The group’s health and nutrition adviser, Dr. Amado Parawan, insisted that breastfeeding was also important against several diseases that might affect infants, amid interrupted vaccination schedules brought by provincial-wide lockdowns.
He noted that it is a great way to avoid stunting or limited growth of children during their formative years, citing a 2019 study by the Department of Science and Technology and the Food and Nutrition Research Institute which showed that 1 of 3 children are stunted.
“Breastmilk gives babies the fighting chance to survive life-threatening diseases such as diarrhea and respiratory infections. It is economical, safe, readily available, and prevents maternal deaths due to breast cancer,” Parawan said.
“Stunting affects the physical, intellectual, and developmental growth of children. It puts them at greater risk for disease and death, poor performance in school, and a lifetime of poverty,” he added.
Last May, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic should not be a reason for mothers to stop breastfeeding, as the latest coronavirus strain had not been found to pass through breast milk.
Philippine health authorities seconded the WHO call. But aside from that, the international health body said that new mothers found to have the coronavirus should continue breastfeeding, as the risk of newborn babies being infected would lower than the dangers that lie if they would not be breastfed.
Despite the pandemic, Save the Children Philippines believes that authorities should also allot some attention towards the implementation of the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act (Republic Act No. 11148 or), which aims to increase national and local programs focused on infants’ first 1,000 days of life.
Muyot believes that some of the health workers should also be assigned to help parents, especially mothers who have to cope with breastfeeding.
“Breastfeeding is not easy for mothers, and they need sustained support from skilled health and nutrition workers, as well as family members and communities,” he said.
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