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UNICEF backs Togolese initiative to promote exclusive breastfeeding

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with the Togolese Government to back community support groups and local initiatives to promote exclusive maternal breastfeeding in a country where other traditional practices are often more welcome.Encouraging mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies is particularly difficult in Togo, according to a press release issued by UNICEF on Friday, the first day of World Breastfeeding Week.Pregnant and lactating mothers in the West African country face many problems in trying to obtain a healthy and well-balanced diet, said M. Vincent Maku, a UNICEF staff member in Togo.“To secure a diet sufficient in both quantity and quality is no easy task in a country where a food crisis already poses a considerable challenge,” Mr. Maku said.Only 28 per cent of Togolese mothers exclusively breastfeed and as many as 108 out of every 1,000 children in the poor nation die before they reach the age of five, frequently because of malnutrition.Traditional feeding practices in Togo can lead to malnutrition and unhealthy lifestyles, and many mothers supplement their infants’ diets with water or porridge within six months of the child’s birth.One breastfeeding adviser involved in the project said both elderly women and husbands are sometimes hesitant to support groups for exclusive breastfeeding.“The problem is that people are having a hard time accepting that traditional practices can be bad for the health of babies,” the adviser said. “And since it is the women who must provide many of the household resources, they tend to abandon exclusive breastfeeding before their children reach the age of six months in order to free themselves to carry out their chores.”Yet now, in one village at the focus of a UNICEF-backed programme, nearly seven out of every 10 women are choosing exclusive breastfeeding. 4 August 2008The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is working with the Togolese Government to back community support groups and local initiatives to promote exclusive maternal breastfeeding in a country where other traditional practices are often more welcome.

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