Over 1.3M children at risk of malnutrition, UNICEF
By Kitab Unango
Over 1.3 million children in South Sudan will this year face acute malnutrition for not receiving the best needed food got only during the first six months’ exclusive breastfeeding, a projection by the United Nations Children Fund.
Exclusive breastfeeding during the globally recommended age of the first six months, vital for child optimal growth prevents future chronic conditions, such as obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes later in life., said UNICEF
Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) such as early initiation of breastmilk within the first hour of birth followed by exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, the introduction of energy and nutrient-dense complementary feeding at six months with the continuation of breastfeeding for two years or beyond is considered the best practices.
But UNICEF said though there was increase by 69 per cent up from 45 per cent in 2010, breastfeeding practices in South Sudan was far from optimal that needed further progress to ensure lactating mothers exclusively breastfed their babies to avert the situation.
“As the data show, more needs to be done, especially to ensure that exclusive breastfeeding is practiced,” said Dr. Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF Representative in South Sudan at the start World Breastfeeding Day.
“These high numbers of child malnutrition can be substantially reduced from the beginning of a child’s life, through exclusive breastfeeding for six months and the introduction of energy and nutrient-dense complementary feeding thereafter,” he added.
However, despite appreciating the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding of babies, Rose Raphael, 32, mother of two kids said she was forced by the COVID-19 lockdown to introduce supplementary foods to her baby before reaching recommended age of six months.
“I suffered a lot when the lockdown was imposed. I promised to exclusively breastfeed my child for six months without even giving him water but I could not because of coronavirus. No one was supporting me and I could breastfeed him early in the morning and in the evening when I come back from work. So I decided to start giving porridge and some soup.”
She added, “When I started giving him few weeks later he became very sick and I took him to Gurei Nutrition Center and they advised me to stop it but still /I could not manage.”
According to UNICEF, practical assistance for mothers could ensure exclusive breastfeeding such as making them sure new mothers have time, private space and food set aside for them to be able to breastfeed comfortably.
“UNICEF is urging everyone in South Sudan to assist mothers in ensuring that the practice of exclusive breastfeeding is continued until the globally recommended age of six months.” Said Ayoya
Jackline Kaku, 25, mother of two, who breastfed her first born for two years called on other women to adhere to the rules to ensure health of their children.
“I was advised to breastfeed my child for two years and I did exactly that my child did not regularly fall sick except malaria sometimes and I am going to keep the rule despite challenges. So I want to advise my fellow not to give up because of challenges to avoid ruining lives of the children,’
Jackline Kaku, 25, a resident of Gudele and mother of two who has exclusively breastfed her first for the first six months called on other women to adhere to the rules to ensure good health of their children.
“I was advised to exclusively breastfeed my child without even water for the first six months and I did exactly that. He is now eight months and does not regularly fall sick except malaria sometimes, and I am going to keep the rule despite challenges. So I want to advise my fellow not to give up because of challenges to avoid ruining lives of their children,’ said kaku,