Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday noted a decline in the number of mothers breastfeeding their children and appealed for help reversing the trend.
The Planning Ministry previously said the number of breastfeeding mothers dropped from 73.5 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2014.
Helen Keller International in July said the number of mothers who breastfeed their children immediately after giving birth fell from 65.3 percent to 62.6 percent, while the number of mothers breastfeeding for 12 months dropped to 80 percent from 83 percent.
Mr Hun Sen in a letter marking the 6th National Nutrition Day in Cambodia yesterday said the declining figures are attributed to lack of knowledge on the benefits of breastfeeding, lack of family support, migrating mothers and misconceptions about milk formula.
“I call on all parties working in the field of maternal and child nutrition to continue strengthening cooperation to ensure that everyone knows breastfeeding is the best option to prevent malnutrition,” he said. “National Nutrition Day is celebrated every year to educate people and raise public awareness in the Kingdom. It is important people know the importance of nutrition in human capital development, work efficiency, economic growth and social progress.”
Mr Hun Sen said breastfeeding is important because it offers many health benefits to mothers and newborn babies. Breastfeeding improves physical and mental health because breast milk consists of nutrients babies need. Breast milk can protect infants against various diseases.
Mr Hun Sen said everyone in the Kingdom must promote the importance of breastfeeding, encourage pregnant women to attend regular medical checkups and create educational programmes on nutrition.
“I want all relevant ministries, development partners, civil society organisations, the private health sector and the public health sector to join with the Cambodian government to collaborate to eliminate all forms of nutritional problems so we can achieve 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” he said.
Health Minister Mam Bun Heng during a World Breastfeeding Week celebration in Siem Reap province in September said breastfeeding within the first hour after giving birth can reduce the risk in the death of a newborn by 20 per cent, and breastfeeding a baby for the first six months can also reduce health risks, including preventing diarrhoea by 11 percent and bronchitis by 15 percent.
Gwyneth Cotes, country director of Helen Keller International Cambodia, said at the event breastfeeding practices would prevent more than 800,000 child deaths worldwide every year.
She added breastfeeding also prevents breast cancer in women and contributes to better growth and development, among other benefits.