MOTHERS have been advised to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months in a bid to help the children grow healthily.
The call was made on Wednesday as dozens of Karongi residents gathered in Rubengera sector during the launch of a one-week breastfeeding campaign.
The campaign, spearheaded by Global Communities, an international NGO, with support from USAID-funded Integrated Improved Livelihoods Programme “Ejo Heza”, aims at educating the population on the importance of exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months.
Amy Davis, the chief of party for the USAID/Ejo Heza said that breastfeeding is a natural and cheap way of saving a baby and ensuring that they are healthy.
“Breastfeeding is natural, accessible and cheap and has a good impact on the life of babies,” Davis said.
She encouraged mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies during their first six months and then supplement it with appropriate complementary feeding for at least two years.
The breastfeeding campaign will involve the NGO’s volunteers, known as ‘Be the Change Volunteers’, who operate at village level in the eight districts in which Global Communities programmes are implemented.
The volunteers will educate members of the community on the benefits of continued breastfeeding and ensure that mothers do it as recommended, according to officials.
Karongi District vice mayor for economic affairs Sebastien Hakizimana said: “This programme is in line with the government policy of building stronger and healthier communities which have the power to build a better future for themselves and the entire country.”
Rwanda is credited to have made tremendous achievements in encouraging mothers to breastfeed their babies.
A report released earlier this year by Save the Children found out that at least 85 per cent of Rwandan mothers exclusively breastfeed their newborns in the first six months.
The report attributed this to several mechanisms put in place to sensitise women on the benefits of breastfeeding as well as existing policies, such as allowing working mothers to take an hour off work per day to breastfeed.
The exclusive breastfeeding for six months is a recommendation by World Health Organisation (WHO).
Breastfeeding is the normal way of providing young infants with the nutrients they need for healthy growth and development, WHO says.
Early supplements such as powdered milk or semi-solid complementary food should be avoided because they expose infants to bacteria or viruses that are capable of causing disease and increases the baby’s risk of infection, according to the organisation.
Malnutrition in the first 1,000 days can cause irreversible damage to the growth and development of the child while a baby who is not breastfed is 15 times more susceptible to death from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die from diarrhea, according to experts.