MANILA, Philippines — Facing increasing poverty and disease in the nation, Save the Children Philippines recently asked the government of the Philippines to expand its breastfeeding campaign. Like many nations, the COVID-19 pandemic had a devastating effect on the Philippines’ economy. According to Save the Children Philippines, children of poor families will bear the brunt of the economic crisis. However, it believes that increased breastfeeding in the Philippines will support vulnerable children’s growth and wellbeing.
How Breastfeeding Can Protect Children
Children born to poor families in the Philippines are twice as likely to die than children born to wealthier families. Poor children are more vulnerable to life-threatening diseases and stunted growth due to their parents’ inability to access proper nutrition. These conditions will be exacerbated as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the Filipino economy.
Breastfeeding newborn children can mitigate these circumstances. Breastfeeding is important in building resilience against certain diseases among infants. Additionally, breastfeeding fends off stunted growth during the first few years of children’s lives.
Stunted growth can affect children’s developmental and physical health later in life, putting them at greater risk for disease and continued poverty. This is particularly important during this time because extended lockdown orders and overflowing hospitals have affected parents’ ability to vaccinate their children and access other healthcare services.
In addition to infant health, breastfeeding can protect maternal health. According to Save The Children Philippines’ health and nutrition advisor Dr. Amado Parawan, breastfeeding can limit the number of “maternal deaths due to breast cancer”.
Breastfeeding in the Philippines during COVID-19
The Philippines’ Department of Health encourages mothers to continue breastfeeding throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization reports that it has not found any trace of COVID-19 in the breastmilk of mothers who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Save The Children Philippines has supported this claim and urged the Filipino government to enforce the Philippine Milk Code, which prohibits emergency infant formula donations.
Save The Children is also encouraging the government to direct its attention to the implementation of the Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act. This policy aims to address the health and nutrition of pregnant and lactating women as well as children within their first 1,000 days of life.
Mandating Breastfeeding Through Legislation
Going even further to encourage breastfeeding in the Philippines, Save The Children Philippines promoted the passage of the First 1,000 Days Law (RA 11148). This law mandates that mothers feed their infants exclusively with breastmilk during the first six months of their lives and continue to breastfeed while introducing additional nutrition until the age of two.
This ordinance follows the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund’s joint appeal to promote and support this practice. Save The Children Philippines believes that it is imperative to mandate breastfeeding in order to strengthen the immune systems of young children living in poverty.
Save the Children Philippines believes that during this global pandemic, it is more imperative than ever that the Filipino government directs its attention to the promotion of breastfeeding. However, it also recognizes that increasing breastfeeding in the Philippines will require robust support systems from government health services, individuals and communities.
– Leina Gabra