The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals
& organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.
WABA action is based on the Innocenti Declaration, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding. WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF & an NGO
in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).
As a doctor, I had always known the importance of breastfeeding. I read about it, I was taught about it, I even preached about it to my patients. But I only truly believed it when I had children of my own.
My twin children Adam and Sara were born prematurely at 30 weeks. They weighed a mere 1.2 and 1.3 kg respectively. Sara underwent 2 bowel operations and Adam had a several bouts of apnea due to his prematurity. For the first few months of their lives, I could only love them through the cold glass panes of an incubator. I couldn't carry them when they cried. I couldn't kiss their pain away. I feared they would feel abandoned and neglected. I have never felt so helpless.
The doctors encouraged me to pump and bring in my milk. Every 2 hours, I would either be in the nursing room, pumping away, or sitting by their incubator encouraging them to drink through their feeding tube. I wasn't yet allowed to breastfeed as they were too small.
At first they started with 2 ml of milk every 3 hrs, then 3 ml the following day, then 5 ml and so on. The fact that their bodies accepted the milk and they didn't vomit it out made my heart feel warm.
The antibiotics and vitamins helped of course, but it was the mama milk that cured them, I'm sure of it. My milk provided an endless supply of antibodies and the right combination of fat, carbs, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Most importantly, it was made of pure love. At that point, it was the only way I could show them my affection.
Day by day I watched them grow bigger and stronger. Their cheeks became fuller and more pink. Sara's wound healed in front of our eyes. Every time they pooped or passed out gas, we smiled with delight as it was a sign that their bowels were functioning just fine. From the incubator, they graduated to the cot. Finally, once they reached a healthy weight, we could bring them home. I could finally show them my full potential as a mother.
“When we educate a mother, we educate a village.” - Nand Wadhwani, founder of IAP HealthPhone, Founding Trustee of The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, a tireless health advocate and a member of the WABA International Advisory Council.
It is estimated that 10 million girls and young women in India will now be able to learn how to protect themselves and their children against malnutrition thanks to a new program – the IAP HealthPhone™ - which will send hundreds of millions of text messages directly to the phones of women and girls with links to short educational videos from the popular “Poshan” series starring Aamir Khan.
This three-year initiative, the largest of its kind in the world, is a public-private partnership involving the Indian Academy of Pediatrics, the Ministry of Women and Child Development, UNICEF, Aamir Khan, Vodafone and The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust. The videos are sponsored by the Government of India and UNICEF and are available in 18 different languages.
With the imminent release of the ambitious new Sustainable Development Goals to end child malnutrition and preventable child deaths by 2030, new approaches to reducing malnutrition are desperately needed, especially in India which is home to 40% of the world’s malnourished women and children.
With mobile phone users in India forecast to rise to more than 730 million by 2017, reaching women with basic health education through their mobile phones may well be the most transformative development solution available. For example, if education through phones could persuade more Indian women to breastfeed, the deaths of up to 170,000 children could potentially be prevented.
“Life as a mother to a young baby in this situation in just unbearable” – Natalie, an ActionAid volunteer reports from Nepal. [ watch video here ]
On April 25, when a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, it also shook the lives of at least 8 million people. By May 8, a report [ link] produced by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reflected the devastation:
At least 7000 dead
Over 3.5 million people estimated to be in need of food assistance
70,000 children (6 to 59 months old) with moderate acute malnutrition require supplementary food and approximately 15,000 children (6 to 59 months old) with severe acute malnutrition require therapeutic feeding
168,000 mother of children (0 to 23 months old) require breastfeeding support
Breastfeeding provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. Even in emergency situations, the aim should be to create and sustain an environment that encourages frequent breastfeeding for children up to at least two years of age.
Unfortunately, water scarcity, stress/trauma, issues of having to breastfeeding in public, the uncontrolled influx of formula milk, as well as having to maintain her own health may affect a mother’s ability to breastfeed successfully.
As part of emergency preparedness, health workers and volunteers should be trained to help mothers establish and continue breastfeeding and overcome difficulties in emergency situations. UNICEF reports [ http://www.unicef.org/emerg/index_50471.html ] that some of the countries that have shown the largest increases in breastfeeding rates are those that have experienced humanitarian emergencies… so let’s work together to overcome the odds!
Check out these resources on breastfeeding in emergencies: