This year’s World breeding week will focus on the links between breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security and reduction of inequalities, the Health Cabinet Secretary has said.
The Health CS Mutahi Kagwe said the celebration focuses on the Warm Chain campaign which puts the mother-baby pair at the Centre and strives to link different actors by coordinating efforts at all levels to provide a continuum of care during the first 1000 days.
He noted that key actors in the chain include health systems, workplace and community support adding that one way to sustain the Warm chain is by recognizing existing and potential actors and the role of existing initiatives such as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, Baby Friendly Community Initiative and workplace support for breastfeeding mothers.
By doing so, the CS said it empowers all mothers for an effective breastfeeding experience and also establishes referral and linkages throughout the warm chain.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), normally celebrated annually during the first week of August, has been celebrated earlier following the electioneering period.
Speaking on Tuesday while launching the week, Kagwe said the first week of August is expected to be the climax of the political season, thus holding WBW may not be possible.
Further, he highlighted that in the last decade, Kenya made sustained development for improvement of breastfeeding status by improving the policies, guidelines and legislative frameworks that guarantee the basic nutrition for every child in line with the Constitution of Kenya, 2010.
This, the CS stated, has contributed to a significant increase in the proportion of children exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months from 32 percent in 2008 to 61 percent in 2014 as demonstrated by the Kenya Demographic Health surveys which he said is a direct result of an enabling legal framework that promotes breast feeding.
Kagwe noted that WBW is championed by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in 170 countries including Kenya.
He stated that the campaign aims to inform, anchor, engage and galvanize action on breastfeeding and related issues to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
He noted that the theme for this year’s celebrations is; Step up for Breastfeeding; Educate and Support and focusses on strengthening the capacity of actors who have responsibility to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society.
The CS noted that The Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) Act, 2012, Legal Notice No. 184 on Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) (General Regulations), 2021 are some of the Laws and Regulations enacted that are relevant to promotion of breastfeeding.
Others, Kagwe stated include Health Act, 2017 which has provisions for the support of breastfeeding at the workplace, Employment Act, 2007 which provides for maternity protection and Legal Notice No. 184 on Breast Milk Substitutes (Regulation and Control) (General Regulations), 2021, came to effect on 30th May 2022.
“The Regulations prescribe how certain sections of the Act are to be implemented in order to curb continued violation of breastfeeding guidelines. We urge for continued compliance and enforcement in order to realize the intended purpose of these legislative instruments,” Kagwe said.
He noted that WBW has been marked before unveiling the National Committee on Infant and Young Child Feeding.
However, the CS said that the appointment of members to this committee is complete and will in due course be unveiled. This committee is important as it is expected to provide the legal function of advising the office of the Cabinet Secretary on Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition.
During the celebrations of this year’s WBW, Kagwe said the Ministry of Health pledges to focus on reawakening the actors in the warm chain by strengthening their capacity through education and empowerment.
“All relevant government agencies, county departments of health, workplaces and communities will be mobilized to provide and sustain breastfeeding- friendly environments for the interest of families even as we continue battling with Covid 19,” added Kagwe.
The CS noted that since 2016, the WBW Campaign has been aligned to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that breastfeeding is a cornerstone of child survival, nutrition and early childhood development and therefore critical to realization of most of the SDGs.