SL tops the world in supporting breastfeeding women

By Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka has clinched the top slot as the nation in the world for supporting breastfeeding women.

According to Director General of Health Services, Dr. Anil Jasinghe, inadequate breastfeeding costs the global economy nearly USD one billion each year. This loss is due to lost productivity and healthcare costs. Breastfeeding mainly benefits child health, women’s health and also prevents future non-communicable diseases.

The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) has congratulated Sri Lanka on having achieved the status of first ever "Green" Nation in supporting breastfeeding women. This is based on its performance on 10 indicators of policies and programmes the WBTi uses to colour- code and rank countries. In an ascending order of performance WBTi colour codes are Red, Yellow, Blue and Green.

Dr. Arun Gupta the global coordinator of WBTi has said according to WBTi Sri Lanka is number 1 among 97 countries. "Sri Lanka which scored 91/100 earned a green color code, which implies the best level of performance. This is the result of persistent efforts since 2005 to pursue improvements. Sri Lanka has demonstrated high level commitment towards health and nutrition of mothers and babies". Not surprisingly, Sri Lanka ranks number 1 on the health and survival sub-index having taken effective steps in this direction."

"In 2019, Sri Lanka scored Green code in 7 out of 10 indicators, 2 are in blue and one in yellow. Maternity protection and implementing the International Code of Marketing for Breast milk Substitutes needs more attention in our country, we want to get green there also" says Wimala Ranatunga, the WBTi coordinator of Sri Lanka and President of the Sarvodya Women’s Movement.

Experts at the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India in Delhi developed the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) and launched it worldwide. So far 120 countries have been involved in WBTi and 97 have completed assessments and reported. As WBTi expects, many countries have done repeated assessments 2-3 or 4 times since 2005. India and Sri Lanka have done it 5th time in 15 years.

The WBTi process includes re-assessment every 3-5 years as an integral part to check the trends in the country. It has been seen that the more countries do reassessment the better are the improvements in policy and programmes/services to women to remove the barriers they face while breastfeeding. These barriers include lack of support by health systems, lack of facilities and break times at work and aggressive promotion of baby foods by multi-national companies. The WBTi findings raise awareness of gaps and generate action to ask the governments and employers to bridge the gaps where needed.

Globally only 41% of infants of 0-6 months are exclusively breastfed. The World Health Organisation has set a target to reach 50% by 2025 with every country contributing to it. According to WHO and UNICEF every pregnant and breastfeeding woman and the baby require an enabling environment in order to begin breastfeeding within an hour of birth, breastfeed exclusively for six months and continue breastfeeding along with adequate foods till two years or beyond.


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