We live in a sad world where half of all refugees are children. Today, there are more than 50 million child migrants suffering from poverty and hunger (UNICEF, 2018).
Ongoing wars during these past few years have displaced many and have brought famine to numerous countries such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia and Syria. The World Health Organization and the United Nations have been calling for urgent action but the world continues to sit back and watch, not doing enough to save the children of the world. This is no shocking news: we have all heard of the crisis, and we choose to look the other way and blame it on politics.
How does breastfeeding play a role in famine-stricken countries?
Many might believe that women who are malnourished can’t sustain breastfeeding. We assume that artificial formula needs to be rushed into countries like Bangladesh to save the hungry dying Rohingya children from famine. We couldn’t be more wrong!
“Babies who have undernourished mothers usually do not reflect the same state of malnourishment because they can draw much of what they need from breastmilk at the expense of the mother.” (Mannel et al., 2013). In fact, it is much more cost effective to nourish the mother and continue to breastfeed the infant.
Dr. Jack Newman travelled to Africa in 1981 where he witnessed firsthand babies dying because they were not breastfed or partially breastfed. Water used to clean bottles was often contaminated. Artificial formula was being prepared in unsanitary conditions placing infants at risk for diarrheal diseases. Children missed out on important antibodies present in breastmilk to protect them from infections.
Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life
The new slogan for World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) 2018 is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life. WABA is an organization that protects, promotes and supports breastfeeding worldwide.
Why is this important? Breastmilk provides nutrition and food security for children around the world (WABA, 2018). That also includes Canada! Families with low income who can’t afford the cost of artificial formula often dilute artificial formula with more water to save costs.
Migrants aren’t only present overseas. Canada Border Services Agency (CNSA) and Immigrant and Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) offices have published preliminary statistics of asylum claimants in 2017. Over 155 000 individuals have claimed asylum in Canada last year! This will evidently increase the number of vulnerable women and young children in Canada.
A mother is blessed with the ability to provide life-sustaining nourishment to her baby. It is a natural phenomenon embedded in our genetic identity. She doesn’t require expensive material that is so hard to come by when fleeing a war-torn country nor does she need clean water when she finds asylum to keep her baby nourished.
A mother’s ability to breastfeed a human child is a sacred gift that is often underestimated and even undermined. We are reminded of its vital role in times of crisis. Can you imagine a world in peril in which women no longer have the knowledge of how to breastfeed?
With love and gratitude always,
Nesha Joshi RN IBCLC
Edited by: Rachel Morasse
Diarrhoeal disease. (n.d.). Retrieved January 20, 2018, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs330/en/
Immigration, R. A. (2017, December 19). Asylum Claims. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/asylum-claims.html
Immigration, R. A. (2017, December 19). Asylum Claimants Processed by Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) Offices, January 2011 – November 2017. Retrieved January 20, 2018, from https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/services/refugees/asylum-claims/processed-claims.html
Mannel, R., Martens, P. J., & Walker, M. (2013). Core curriculum for lactation consultant practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning. page 328
Newman, J., & Pitman, T. (2006). Lallaitement: comprendre et réussir avec le Dr. Jack Newman. Québec: Jack Newman Communications. page 16
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action – Protects, Promotes and Supports Breastfeeding Worldwide. (n.d.). Retrieved January 22, 2018, from http://waba.org.my/
(n.d.). World Breastfeeding Week. Retrieved January 21, 2018, from http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/