First Lady concerned by breastfeeding statistics

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

First Lady Dr Tshepo Motsepe has expressed concern at statistics revealing that only one-third of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed in South Africa.

Motsepe made the remark while addressing the UNICEF International Council Gala Dinner in Cape Town on Tuesday.

In her address, the First Lady also commended the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) for partnering with South Africa’s efforts of promoting breastfeeding.

“It’s encouraging to know that we have support in our efforts to address the concerning statistic that only one-third of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed in this country,” she said. 

“Global evidence proves that where breastfeeding is protected, promoted and supported, women are two and a half times more likely to breastfeed. If South Africa is to reach the 2025 UN target, our challenge is to support mothers to exclusively breastfeed for at least 6 months, and where possible continue until the child is two years old. We need to become a breastfeeding-friendly nation,” she said.

In the early childhood development sector, UNICEF partners with the South African Government through technical assistance to strengthen legislative frameworks, systems and programmes, and ensure that all children survive, thrive and develop from the start.

The programme includes a comprehensive focus on the first 1 000 days for mothers and their infants.

“One of the ways in which we witness how UNICEF is making a difference in South Africa is through its support of a nationally targeted breastfeeding advocacy and media campaign. Breastfeeding plays a significant role in contributing to the optimal health and development of a child, providing each child with the best and healthiest start to life,” said Motsepe. 

This is an issue the First Lady is actively involved in through the South African Civil Society for Women, Adolescents and Children’s Health – SACSOWACH.

“[It] requires ongoing intervention,” she said.

In August, Motsepe addressed a UNICEF-supported initiative on Breastfeeding Week at Kalafong Hospital in Pretoria.

“It is also encouraging that the South African government’s efforts such as the MomConnect programme received UNICEF support when it was established. And the organisation has a hand in our Isibindi Programme of home visits and safe parks that is led by the Department of Social Development,” she said. 

UNICEF is also providing technical assistance for the monitoring and evaluation of South Africa’s implementation of regulations relating to foodstuffs for infants and young children and works with the country on capacity development in this area. 

“The constructive and positive journey of children and young people in South Africa and around the world, is closely linked to ensuring participation and involvement by young people themselves. It is encouraging to see that this is an increasing focus of the work of UNICEF both in South Africa and globally,” she said.

The First Lady congratulated UNICEF on convening the Council meeting for the first time in South Africa, saying she hoped the organisation was able to witness first-hand the profound transformation the country has undergone in the past 25 years.

“As we continue our work to fully realise the Convention on the Rights of the Child, I thank you for being a vocal, active and supportive partner in our collective effort to leave no child behind,” she said. –