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Exclusive breastfeeding rates rise in South Sudan, says UNICEF

August 1, 2019 (JUBA) - There is sharp increase in exclusive breastfeeding in South Sudan, courtesy of the use of infant nutrition guidelines introduced by the ministry of Health, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Thursday.

A UNICEF trained health worker walks children through he correct steps of hand washing with soap in February 2016 (UNICEF Sudan Photo)

The surge, UNICEF said, is due to the development of the maternal infant and young child nutrition guidelines by the Health ministry and training of healthcare providers on appropriate infants and young children feeding practices.

"The Ministry of Health and UNICEF are working together with WHO and WFP and other partners in South Sudan to increase support and investments for improving infant and child feeding practices," Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF representative in South Sudan said.

UNICEF issued the statement to mark the start of the World Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated annually to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of children and their mothers.

"There is no doubt that the absolute best nutrition for babies is found in breast milk. We all have a responsibility to provide an environment for mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies up to the age of six months, when complementary foods should be introduced,” said Ayoya.

The officials said the breast milk should be given alongside nutrient dense complementary foods until the age of two years and beyond.

Early initiation in the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, and continued breastfeeding for two years or more, is the best possible start a child can have for improved nutrition, growth and development, UNICEF said.

On his part, South Sudan’s health minister, Riek Gai Kok, said government is committed to achieving 98% exclusive breastfeeding in the next five years with support from health and nutrition partners.