Breastfeeding identified as panacea to Paediatric illnesses

By Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

BREASTFEEDING has been cited as key in the fight against infant mortality and malnutrition.

This comes as several communities on the African continent are facing paediatric illnesses due to poor eating habits among infants and children.

With breast milk enriched with antibodies which help protect children from common illnesses, breastfeeding mothers in Chimanimani district are convinced that there is no better substitute.

“I have eight children and of all these children I have been following community health workers advice of exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuous breastfeeding for two years and all my children grew up healthy without any sicknesses.

“During cyclone Idai I had a small baby and because I spent most of my time in the food ration queues, leaving my kid at home he was not properly nourished and up to now he gets sick easily unlike this one I am nursing him by the book hence he is very healthy,” said Chimanimani mothers.

With support from the Ministry of Health and Child Care and United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF), community health workers continue to play an important role in educating communities on the importance of breastfeeding.

“I always love to lead by example as I always breastfeed my children up to two years and my children are healthy hence the people in my village understand when i tell them about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.

“When breastfeeding mothers follow the instructions then we will have less and less children falling sick as their immune systems will be boosted but so far am happy to report that most of the mothers in my village have healthy children as they are breastfeeding their babies until 2 years of age.”

District nutritionist for Chimanimani, Enessy Makaure outlined the benefits of breastfeeding.

“Generally our children are well nourished but we have problems with malnutrition particularly in the Rusitu Valley.

“We have had consecutive disasters coming from Cyclone Idai to the recent one which is the storm Anna we have been trying to support the village health workers who go deep into the communities to train and support the mothers with feeding and complimentary feeding.

“This was driven from the study that we heard, where we realised that when you breastfeed children up to two years you get to boost their immunity, you boost even the cognitive issues, they get to be intelligent, it’s also promoting the bond that the child has with the mother,” she said.

With under-nutrition estimated to be associated with 45 percent of all child deaths annually, the World Health Organisation and UNICEF have developed a training programme for community health workers to provide skilled support to breastfeeding mothers.

It also includes monitoring the growth of children to identify the risk of under-nutrition or obesity.