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Speech of the UNICEF Acting Representative in Viet Nam, Mr. Jean Dupraz at the Launch of World Breastfeeding Week 2010

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Date: Thursday, July 29, 2010
Event: Launch of World Breastfeeding Week 2010
Venue: Ministry of Defence's Guess House - 33 Pham Ngu Lao Street
Speaker: Mr. Jean Dupraz, UNICEF Acting Representative in Viet Nam

  • Dr. Nguyen Ba Thuy, Vice- Minister of Health, 
  • Dear partners and UN colleagues,
  • Distinguished guests
  • Representatives from the media
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

I am delighted to be here today on behalf of the United Nations family in Viet Nam on this important occassion of the launch of World Breastfeeding Week 2010.

Around the globe World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year during the first week of August. This week in more than 120 countries activities will take place to encourage breastfeeding to improve the health and development of babies around the world and the UN is proud to be associated with this initiative.

As has been proven to us over and over again, breastfeeding within one hour after birth and exclusively during the first six months of life yields tremendous health benefits to the newborn baby. It can prevent 13 per cent of under-five deaths and also helps prevent a great number of diseases, in childhood and later in life, from infections to allergies and chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Despite the of the enormous benefit of breastfeeding, current breastfeeding practices in Viet Nam call for urgent action: Only around half of babies born are breastfed within one hour after birth and less than one in five babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months of life.

This year’s theme of the World Breastfeeding Week in Viet Nam is "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding - A call for action to health care providers and communities," focusing on the vital role for health workers and facilities in the promotion of breastfeeding. It calls for every health facility providing maternity services and care for newborn infants to provide support to mothers in breastfeeding by following the ten steps.

These 10 steps aren’t new to us. First presented to the world in the 1989 by UNICEF and WHO, the 10 steps have been part of exclusive breastfeeding promotion in Viet Nam since 1992, as an important part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. To date, 59 hospitals are certified as Baby Friendly Hospitals and follow the 10 steps for exclusive breastfeeding.  However, this number isn’t enough compared to the 12,146 hospitals and health centers with maternal services in Viet Nam[1].

To ensure that the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is fully carried out in Viet Nam and provides a major push to the breastfeeding promotion, a strong commitment from health sector, government and international organizations is important. The National Plan on Infant and Young Child Feeding would be an appropriate platform to create a detailed action plan to increase the number of Baby Friendly Hospitals and create a solid benchmarking system of hospital assessment and accreditation including the monitoring of on-going Baby Friendly Hospitals.

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

While each of 10 steps is important, let me emphasize two particular steps that deserve special attention in Viet Nam. These steps are:

Step four: Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, and Step six:  Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk unless medically indicated.

Our priority is based on evidence, let there be no doubt about that. Research shows that  only 58% initiates breastfeeding within the first hour of birth. [2]

The research also  shows that  while 43% of women say that breastmilk is predominant food provided to their infants less than six months, only 10 % breastfeed exclusively  with no water, no juice, no formula added[3].

To improve this situation and promote the exclusive breastfeeding, Viet Nam has a unique opportunity: over 90%[4] of delivery takes place at the hospital in the attendance of skilled health care workers. Let us use this great opportunity  and ensure that indeed every mother who delivers at a hospital in Viet Nam does initiate the breastfeeding within a half hour after birth, and continues to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months.

The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding provide a supportive pathway enabling women to achieve their breastfeeding intentions and guiding healthcare workers in breastfeeding support.  Role of health managers and health workers are vital in making these steps occur including orienting facilities on 10 steps of BHFI and changing current practices by health workers, families, and mothers. Practices supporting initial breastfeeding while complying with the Government decree 21 on Trading and Marketing of breast milk substitutes at the health facilities should be promoted.

Everyone here today – leaders from health authorities, health workers and mass media – have role to play to make sure exlusive breast feeding is practiced and promoted in Viet Nam.

Before ending my speech, I would like to express my appreciation for the commitment of the Government, especially to the Ministry of Health, to prioritize breastfeeding promotion as an important public health intervention. The UN in Viet Nam and other development partners look forward to intensified action in the very near future and we count on your cooperation as well.

I wish you all good health and happiness.

Thank you.

[1] World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative, Vietnam 2008

[2] National Nutrition Surveillance 2009

[3] Ibid

[4] Technical Report for Formative Research: Infant and Young Child Feeding Assessment, Alive & Thrive