The Lao PDR Ministry of Health, the European Union and UNICEF, marked World Breastfeeding Week in an official event held on Aug 3, 2022 at the University of Health Science in Vientiane.
The event was chaired by Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, Minister of Health. In attendance were also Ms. Lavanh Sutthisan, Deputy Chair of Lao Women Union, Ms. Baiba Zarina, Chargé d’Affaires. a.i. of the European Union Delegation to the Lao PDR, and Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to the Lao PDR, alongside representatives of civil societies and other development partners.
The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated in the first week of every August, is “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support”. It highlights the importance of collaboration between stakeholders across all levels of civil society to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. In the Lao PDR, it advocates for the creation of breastfeeding-friendly work environments and policies that encourage and facilitate the practice.
“Breast milk is perfectly designed for a child’s nutritional and immunological needs, helping to prevent infections while promoting bonding between mother and child,” explained Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith.” The benefits of breast milk have been well researched and evidence shows that breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children,” he added.
Mitigation measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have caused significant disruptions to infant and child feeding services in Lao PDR, threatening to reverse some of the gains made in the country over the last few years. Lockdowns and physical distancing meant that parents and caregivers had fewer opportunities to receive skilled in-person breastfeeding counselling.
In addition, misinformation about COVID-19 and aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes by the formula industry continues to negatively influence parents’ infant feeding decision, ultimately putting the health of children at risk.
“Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding involves a wide range of actors. As such, we all have a role to play, from health service providers to the workplace and community members to address these challenges at hand and increase the capacity of all the actors who are part of this ‘warm chain of support for breastfeeding’,” said Baiba Zarina, Chargé d’Affaires. a.i. of the European Union Delegation to the Lao PDR
“This World Breastfeeding Week, we call on the Government, donors, civil society and the private sector to step up their support to education around breastfeeding and transform existing systems that promote and support breastfeeding for the benefit of all mothers and children in Lao PDR,” said Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to the Lao PDR. “Breastfeeding saves lives and contributes to human capital development, thus benefits the whole country. UNICEF, alongside our partners, will always be the Lao PDR government’s main ally in promoting the simple, life-saving practice of breastfeeding,” she concluded.
Source: Lao News Agency