1 In 3 Vietnamese Children Are Stunted, Experts Say Lack Of Breastfeeding To Blame
By Christine Teo | Health & Medicine
December 14, 2011
A mass media campaign in Vietnam promoting exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding was launched today to fight the country’s high rate of stunting in children.
AsianScientist (Dec. 14, 2011) – In line with micronutrient week in Vietnam, a mass media campaign promoting exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding was launched today under Alive & Thrive, a five year initiative (2009 – 2013) funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In Vietnam, Alive & Thrive and collaborators at the Ministry of Health, National Institute of Nutrition, UNICEF, and World Health Organization hope that the campaign will enable parents to make informed decisions about how children are fed during the first two years of their lives.
“Breastfeeding is the single most important factor in child survival and development,” said Ms. Nemat Hajeebhoy, Country Director of Alive & Thrive.
Exclusive and continued breastfeeding is the most complete form of nutrition for infants during the first six months of life, says Alive & Thrive. However only 19.6 percent of Vietnamese infants are exclusively breastfed during this critical period, nearly half the world average of 35 percent.
Lack of early, exclusive and continued breastfeeding along with inappropriate complementary feeding has led to serious health consequences for children in Vietnam – a third of Vietnamese children are stunted while every fifth child is underweight.
“Breastfeeding also helps prevent a great number of diseases, in childhood, as well as adulthood, from infections to allergies and chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer,” said Dr. Le Thi Hop, Director of the National Institute of Nutrition.
“By improving feeding practices during the first 24 months of life, we can reduce stunting rates and ultimately improve the health and economic development of Vietnam,” Dr. Le said.
The United Nations also called for stronger national regulation on marketing of nutrition products targeting young children to regulate improper promotion of food products that compete with breastfeeding.
The mass media campaign will be executed over the next two years. The main messages of the campaign in 2012 are:
- Breastfeed your infant within one hour of birth.
- Breastfeed your child exclusively in the first six months – give no water, formula or food.
- The more the baby suckles, the more milk a mother would produce.
TV commercials will be aired on national and provincial televisions and on popular websites such as Vietnamnet, Vnexpress, Webtretho, Yahoo, Women and Entertainment networks. TVCs and educational videos will also be showed in the Mặt trời bé thơ counseling facilities and in many hospitals in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Khanh Hoa, and other provinces.
The National Institute of Nutrition estimates that if all families practice appropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices, Vietnam could reduce its rate of stunting in children under five by 26 percent by 2015 and 23 percent by 2020.
Parents, health workers and caregivers are encouraged to visit the website Mặt trời bé thơ for information on breastfeeding and complementary feeding.
Source: UNICEF East Asia and Pacific.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.