An estimated 78 million newborns have a higher risk of death each year as a result of not drinking their mother’s milk within the first hours of being born, according to the United Nations.
A recent report – jointly published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, to coincide with the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week – observed mothers in 76 low and middle-income countries.
It found that only two out of five babies are breastfed immediately after being born. It also said that while instant breastfeeding is very common in East and Southern Africa, that is not the case in East Asia and the Pacific, where less than a third of newborns get to drink their mother’s milk soon after being born.
“When it comes to the start of breastfeeding, timing is everything. In many countries, it can even be a matter of life or death,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF.
UNICEF recommend that babies should be exclusively breastfed up to an age of six months, after which they can begin incorporating some food and other liquid into their diet alongside breastfeeding.
To mark World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF’s regional office for Eastern and Southern Africa sent five female photographers to Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe to document the experiences of breastfeeding mothers, the challenges they face and the support they receive from their families and communities.
These images were provided by UNICEF