By Kanamugire Emmanuel
Rwanda-National Early Childhood and Development Programme, (NECDP) has launched the Breastfeeding Week in Nkombo Sector, Rusizi District, in the Western Province.
The launch took place on Wednesday 14th August 2019, with the call for the active contribution to the possibility of breastfeeding.
Known as” World Breastfeeding Week” is marked annually from 1 to 7 August to highlight the critical importance of breastfeeding for children across the globe.
Up to 87 per cent of Rwanda’s mothers exclusively breastfeed their babies during the first six months of life. But the older a baby is, the less likely they are to continue breastfeeding or receive a balanced diet.
Statistics show that only 64 per cent of children in Rwanda receive complementary foods after six months, and just 18 per cent of children under two years consume adequately healthy and diverse foods.
Commenting on the importance of breastfeeding beyond the first six months, during the launch, Alexis Mucumbitsi, Head of Nutrition and Hygiene within NECDP, said it helps give babies the best possible start in life and protects children from illnesses and diseases.
“A longer period of breastfeeding promotes brain development and lays the foundation for lifelong learning”, he said, advising parents to not provide their young children with supplementary food before the first six months.
The United Nations for Children’s Fund (Unicef) salutes the achievements of Rwanda in breastfeeding activities according to Youssouf Koita, Nutrition Programme Manager within Unicef Rwanda. However there is a need to improve what has been done and the contribution of different actors.
“A lot has been achieved in that area in Rwanda but we still have a long way to go, we can improve what we have done and for that we need the contribution of each of us. Breastfeeding is not only for the mother, the father also can contribute, the district, the private sector…, it’s together that we will be able to achieve more and much better”, he said.
“We don’t need to demonstrate the importance of breastfeeding because we all know its impact on the development of a child but also the benefits of the mother. Breastfeeding our children does not only help them to survive and grow but it’s a way to contribute to the development of the country”, he added.
Kubwimana Delphine a mother of seven living in Rwenje Cell, Nkombo Sector, in her testimony said that breastfeeding is important if it’s well done especially in the first six months of a baby.
“I used to breastfeed my all seven children. No other food I gave them, so none of them was malnourished.” She said.
To celebrate World Breastfeeding Week this year in Rwanda, UNICEF and NECDP are calling on the private sector to allow breastfeeding at workplace and pay breastfeeding breaks as well as parental leave of at least 18 weeks.