$17.5 bn global investment needed for optimal breastfeeding: Report

New Delhi, Dec 11: A global annual investment of $17.5 billion in interventions to universalize optimal breastfeeding can prevent millions of babies from infant deaths due to diarrhoea and pneumonia besides impaired development and reduce the risk for diabetes, hypertension, cancer and cardiac diseases in adult life, suggests a report.

The report “The Need to Invest in Babies – A Global Drive for Financial Investment in Children’s Health and Development through Universalizing Interventions for Optimal Breastfeeding” was published by the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), an international non-governmental organization that monitors and tracks the implementation of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.

The report was formally released here Tuesday by Montek Singh Ahluwalia, deputy chairman of the Planning Commission.

The report has been launched simultaneously in Canada, Mexico, Egypt, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nepal.

The report notes that out of the 135 million babies born every year, 83 million babies and their mothers are not enabled to optimally breastfeed as recommended by the WHO.

The report challenged the current estimate of $2.9 billion given by the World Bank in 2010.

“Even though breastfeeding has been identified as the most vital intervention to reduce infant deaths and malnutrition in children, it is extremely under-funded. Earlier estimates covered only parts of promotion of breastfeeding and were too low to fund all the necessary interventions of ‘protection’ and ‘support’ to women, which are so critical,” it said.

The report calls the transfer of a minimum of $2 per day for 180 days for lactating women to enable them to remain with their infants during the critical early months without economic pressure to go back to work. This assistance, which globally comes to $12.6 billion annually, is based on World Bank’s poverty line. India and UK have already begun such schemes to support women, it said.

IANS