Gambian women face many challenges in breastfeeding — Health minister

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By Maimuna Sey-Jawo

The Minister of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) Saffie Lowe Ceesay has stated that Gambian women are faced with many challenges in breastfeeding.
The minister said among them is long working hours, psychosocial pressure, inadequate lactation support from male partners at home and in work places, inadequate access to skilled breastfeeding counselling and aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes.

The Health Minister made these remarks on Wednesday morning, at a local hotel in Senegambia during the commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week themed “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together”.
According to the Health Minister, despite all these challenges, in The Gambia, almost all children have ever been breastfed (99%), however, only 52% are breastfed within an hour of birth and 48% are exclusively breastfed (0 to 6 months).

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Thus she said, it is recommended that children be put to the breast immediately or within one hour after birth and that pre-lacteal feeding be discouraged.
Minister Ceesay added that The Gambia is among the first countries to champion parent friendly workplace to ensure support to breastfeeding working mothers.

For his part, the UNICEF deputy Resident Representative Rupert J Leighton, said recognizing the crucial role of breastfeeding in children’s health and development.
“I am delighted to acknowledge and commend the full commitment of the government of The Gambia for enacting the Breastfeeding Promotion Regulation of 2006. The government also adopted the code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes which promotes exclusive breastfeeding.”

UNICEF, he added, will continue to support the government and our partners to ensure that no child or woman is left behind, and that we can all work together to sustain breastfeeding and improve on best practices on breastfeeding in The Gambia. “We must take up the challenge to ensure that all Gambian babies are given the best possible start in life,” he noted.

The executive director of National Nutrition Agency (NANA) Pa Modou Phaal spoke at length on the significance of the forum, adding that the importance on exclusive breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized.
“If there is any cultural practice that we are going to abandon, please let it not be exclusive breastfeeding. Let’s support and promote exclusive breastfeeding. Each and every one of us here is a stakeholder, thus let us ensure that our family practise exclusive breastfeeding,” he advised.

The government, he added, is on the right track in terms of providing the relevant policies and programmes for exclusive breastfeeding, “thus it is crucial for us to breastfeeding our babies for the betterment of their future.”

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