The Health, Education and Literacy Programme (HELP), in collaboration with implementation partners SAIFRN and the Nutrition Cell, Balochistan held a dissemination seminar entitled “Saving Newborn Lives by Early Initiation of Breastfeeding and Exclusive Breastfeeding”. This project was funded by the Maternal and Newborn Health Programme – Research and Advocacy Fund (RAF).
Participants at this event included: Mr Inamullah Khan Dharejo (Secretary for Health, Government of Sindh), Dr Ashfaq Memon (Director General of Sindh Health Services), Dr. Asif Aslam (UNICEF), Dr. Zeeshan (WHO), Dr. Laila Rizvi and Dr. Kashif Riaz (THF), Dr. Bilquis Hashim (Lady Duferin Hospital), Dr. Sadia Ahsan Pal (NCMNH and AMAN) as well as a number of other leading physicians and pediatricians from across Pakistan. The dissemination seminar also received interest from University faculty, various sectors of Government, media, religious leaders and civil service organizations operating in the diverse communities of Sindh.
Speaking at the event, Professor D.S. Akram (HELP Chairperson) and Assoc. Professor Michael Dibley (University of Sydney) advocated for wide-scale adoption of early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding practices as a means to make significant strides in the child health including saving the lives of up to 1.3 million children each year in Pakistan alone (equivalent to a 22% reduction in infant mortality). Dr Dibley also presented cross country comparison on timely initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, full breastfeeding and bottle feeding, using DHS data analysed by SAIFRN. They cited prevention of malnutrition/under-nutrition, improved immune function and birth spacing as importance benefits of breastfeeding.
Professor Akram also considered the detrimental impact of poorly regulated marketing of breastmilk substitutes on the high rates of bottle-feeding (33%) seen in Pakistan, stating that inadequate consideration of the issue in both medical/nursing curricula and maternal counseling guides was a significant barrier change. Building on this, Dr. Mallick Maroof Imam (HELP Project Coordinator) discussed the implementation of legislation entitled “Sindh Promotion and Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance 2013” including policy change and public education for the protection of breastfeeding.
Mr Inamullah Khan Dharejo (Secretary for Health, Government of Sindh) and Dr Ashfaq Memon (Director General of Sindh Health Services) in their respective addresses acknowledged the value of HELP and partners’ research activities. The session culminated in strong statements of support for the full implementation of the legislation to regulate marketing of breastmilk substitutes in Sindh Province, Pakistan.