Pretoria - The KwaZulu-Natal Health Department will take its campaign to promote exclusive breastfeeding to women in various communities in the province.
Announcing the Breastfeeding Week campaign, which runs from 1 - 7 August 2011, provincial Health MEC, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, said the department will be visiting communities to conduct one-on-one education and public addresses on the importance of breastfeeding.
"We want partners and families to support women when they are breastfeeding. Radio talks will also be used as well as talks in health facilities, including clinics and hospitals targeting patients," Dhlomo said on Monday.
In 2010, the department unveiled a revised exclusive breastfeeding policy on infant and child feeding, where it announced that it would stop providing formula milk to mothers in public hospitals and instead, encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed infants for the child's first six months.
This is to help babies achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, they can be given nutritious complementary foods and continue breastfeeding up to the age of two years or beyond.
"The policy review came after a World Health Organisation (WHO) finding that suggested that exclusive breastfeeding of infants with only breast milk and no other foods or liquids for six months, has several advantages over mixed breastfeeding.
"These advantages include a lower risk of gastrointestinal infection for the baby, more rapid maternal weight loss after birth and delayed return of menstrual periods. No reduced risks of other infections or of allergic diseases have been demonstrated," Dhlomo explained.
He added that to fight all forms of malnutrition, the department has joined hands with partners to encourage families, communities and partners to act against under-nutrition, obesity and overweight, micronutrient deficiency and other forms of malnutrition, which affect hundreds of children.
"Worldwide, malnutrition accounts for 11 percent of all diseases and causes long-term poor health and disability, but malnutrition also threatens a child's education and the development of the most vulnerable in our country."
Dhlomo noted that some babies in KwaZulu-Natal are born each year with low birth weight and are more likely to die in infancy.
"These babies are born this way because their mothers did not have adequate amounts of iron in their diet. Such evidence is motivating us to take action that can help protect the lives of hundreds of new-borns," he said.
Nutrition is a critical part of health and development and better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease and longevity.
"Healthy children learn better. People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of poverty and hunger," said Dhlomo.