Stakeholders from the health and nutrition sectors as well as policy makers have launched a national campaign on the theme, “No Water Campaign”, which calls for the intensification of effective intervention that protects, promotes, and supports breast feeding only on demand, ending the practice of adding water at birth, especially during the first six months of life.
The campaign organized by the Government of Liberia including the Ministry of Heath, members of the 54th legislature, the UN in Liberia, and nutrition sector partners was launched on Wednesday, August 19 in Monrovia attended by lawmakers, health and nutrition stakeholders and members of the private sector. It coincided with the celebration of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7) which is under the theme, “Stronger with Breast Milk Only.”
The goal of the campaign is for Liberia to achieve the 70% target of exclusive breast feeding.
Statistics show that in Liberia only 55 percent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed, which means that apart from breastfeeding, babies are also given plain water, fluids and other food, which contribute to child malnutrition, illnesses and even death.
The campaign, among other things, calls on the Government and policymakers to increase funding in the national budget to support the monitoring of policies and plans of breast feeding, adopt and implement the marketing and promotion of breast milk substitutes for infants, as the international Code of marketing of breast milk substitutes, including packaged water, and calls on the Government to engage the private sector social insurance to adopt policies favorable to the family including child care services, spaces reserved for breast feeding in the work places and women’s rights protection policies to breast feeding that meet or exceed the guidelines on maternity protection.
It also calls on companies to develop favorable policies for the family to support breast feeding by granting sufficient maternity leave period and offering them a time and a feeding space at the work places and among others.
Grand Bassa County Senator Jonathan L. Kaipay, who launched the campaign, pledged the commitment of the lawmakers in ensuring that the campaign becomes a success.
He said there is a need that the Government and partners make sure to work with pregnant women in rural communities to improve their nutrition intake, and to ensure that baby mothers are provided with safe drinking water, considering that the breastfeeding constitutes 80 percent water.
Senator Kaipay further said that that lawmakers should develop policies that will enhance the implementation of exclusive breastfeeding.
“Perhaps, we need to work together with the Ministry Health to see how this sector can be captured in terms of budgetary allocation to promote breastfeeding. We must move further to talk about how the government can support partners to create sensitization at different schools levels, where teenage pregnancies are on the increase. Then the launching of this exercise could be a success,” he asserted.
According to him, the presence of lawmakers attending the launch of the campaign demonstrates their interest in supporting the campaign at all cost.
Dr. Wilhemina Jallah, Minister of Health, explained during the program that exclusive breastfeeding is the only solution for babies, adding that it has the potential to save many lives and reduce expenditures for families.
“We want to encourage the fathers and mothers not to worry about the consequences relating to breastfeeding but should continue because it has a lot of benefits. We encourage our lawmakers to support the breast feeding program,” she said.
Also, a board member of the Liberia CSOs WASH Network, Timothy Kpeh, appealed to policy makers to pass into law those policies for nutrition at the House.
“We are calling on the lawmakers to review those nutrition policies that are still lingering at the national Legislature,” he stated.