By LONAH KIBET
More than 11,000 children under the age five die annually due to poor breastfeeding practices, a report has shown.
The study also revealed that Kenya loses more than Sh76 billion every year treating three major but preventable diseases caused by improper breastfeeding. The three diseases are Otitis Media, lower respiratory tract infections, and gastrointestinal illnesses.
“Up to Sh76 billion per year is spent on three preventable diseases linked to formula-feeding,” read the report in part.
It adds: “One in three children in Kenya are malnourished mitigating in a child’s right to optional survival and development and failing to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.”
Mothers are advised to breastfeed children within the first hour of birth and continually do so exclusively for six months.
“A child should be exclusively breastfed for six months. Current rates of early initiation are at 58 per cent and rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 32 per cent shows that many children are not being given the best start in life,” says the report.
In a speech read by Family Health head of department Annah Wamae, Public Health and Sanitation minister Beth Mugo expressed concern over the rise in stunted growth of children.
“Chronic malnutrition has remained constantly high above 30 per cent in the last three decades which prevents children from achieving their full potential both academically and economically,” said the minister during the opening of the 10th World Breastfeeding Week in Nairobi, on Wednesday.
Mugo said it has been recognised globally that for countries to improve their nutrition status of populations, focus must be on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life (starting from conception to 24 months of age).