WHILE diarrhoea and pneumonia remain the biggest killers of children under five years in East Asia and the Pacific, exclusive breastfeeding of infants under six months is an effective solution.
But a report by the United Nations Childrens Education Fund (UNICEF) said the 2010 Fiji statistics revealed only 40 per cent of infants under six months were exclusively breastfed.
Called Pneumonia and diarrhoea: Tackling the deadliest diseases for the world’s poorest children, the report stated while pneumonia and diarrhoea were closely associated with poor home environments, malnutrition and lack of access to essential services, deaths were also preventable through adequate nutrition, hand washing with soap, safe drinking water and basic sanitation and vaccinations, among others.
The report said while those diseases could be easily treated when identified early, the reality was that deaths from pneumonia and diarrhoea were concentrated among the poorest children.
UNICEF executive director Anthony Lake said scaling up simple interventions could overcome two of the biggest obstacles to increasing child survival and help give every child a fair chance to grow and thrive.
The report also said that low breastfeeding rates were the result of aggressive marketing of infant formula in the region.
Also economic developments enabling more women to enter the workforce where breastfeeding was largely not supported was another contributor, the report.
Ministry of Health’s deputy secretary Pulbic Health. Doctor Joe Koroivueta confirmed the exclusive breastfeeding figures.
On the issue of mothers entering the workforce, he said it worked two ways.
“We need to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies but for that to happen, employers need to have an area to allow women to breastfeed their children,” Dr Koroivueta said.
He said they could not substantiate if low breastfeed was the result of aggressive marketing of infant formulas.