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Baby-friendly initiative launched in Siem Reap

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World Vision Cambodia launches a pilot programme on Baby-Friendly Health Centre in Siem Reap on November 29. WORLD VISION CAMBODIA

Baby-friendly initiative launched in Siem Reap

The National Maternal and Child Health Centre (NMCHC) and World Vision International (Cambodia) have jointly announced the launch of “Baby-Friendly Health Centre” – a pilot one-year programme aimed at promoting breastfeeding and treatment of acute malnutrition – at eight health centres in Siem Reap province.

According to their November 29 joint statement, the programme is in line with the operational guidelines for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives [BFHI]. The BFHI was first launched by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF in 1991.

“The one-year pilot programme intends to improve the breastfeeding rate and children’s wellbeing by promoting the eight health centres as baby-friendly, in line with,” it said.

Within these health centres, World Vision Cambodia aims to improve the identification, referral and follow-up of children with acute malnutrition. This will contribute to the Global Action Plan on Child Wasting (acute malnutrition) by the UN Cambodia 2021 and the recently launched Interim Guidelines for Growth Monitoring and Promotion of children under 5 by the health ministry.

“This initiative will benefit children under 5 with acute malnutrition. More than 3,000 pregnant women and 2,000 newborns will be impacted. The project will improve the quality of services in the eight health centres in Pouk and Varin districts and the Angkor Chum Referral Hospital in Siem Reap province,” it added.

Grana Pu Selvi, technical lead of the Integrated Nutrition Programme at World Vision Cambodia, said health facilities play a crucial role in encouraging and supporting young mothers to breastfeed their newborn children successfully.

“The first few days of a newborn’s life are an important window for providing mothers with the support they need to breastfeed successfully. Globally, UNICEF and WHO launched the BFHI to encourage health facilities worldwide to better support breastfeeding,” she said.

Selvi added that 10 steps are recommended to successfully promote optimal clinical care for new mothers and their infants. They focus on protection and promotion of breastfeeding, practices among pregnant women, and among those who have delivered their babies. There is substantial evidence that implementing these 10 steps improves breastfeeding rates at the health centres and can reach a significant proportion of pregnant women and young mothers.

Health ministry secretary of state Prak Sophonneary said the ministry has been collaborating with development partners, such as World Vision Cambodia, to improve breastfeeding rates in the country. It is essential to increase knowledge among pregnant women and new mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding.

“Supporting health centre staff will enable them to educate pregnant women and postpartum mothers. Skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible after delivery and the initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of birth also need to be promoted both during pregnancy and post-delivery,” she added.

“Staff should also support breastfeeding – in terms of attachment and positioning of the baby – to improve the wellbeing of children in Cambodia,” she concluded.

Chhea Kimchhat, chief of the Sorsor Sdom Health Centre in the Angkor Chom Operational Health District, welcomed the initiative and expected that it would help to improve service delivery in the health centre and increase the breastfeeding rate. In addition, children will receive timely treatment for acute malnutrition, which will reduce health complications.

According to research, between the '90s and early 2000s, Cambodia showed impressive achievements in the percentage of children in Cambodia that were exclusively breastfed for the first six months. This decreased from 74 per cent in 2010 to 51 per cent in 2021. In addition, the country registered low rates of early breastfeeding initiation, with only 54 per cent of newborns being fed breast milk within one hour of birth. The institutional birth rate is 98 per cent.

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