In June, the Government of Burkina Faso launched the Stronger With Breastmilk Only campaign, with support from UNICEF, the World Bank, the PRSS (Health Services Reinforcement Project) of the Government of Burkina Faso, and Alive & Thrive, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the campaign was launched online: a Zoom webinar, Facebook Live broadcast, social media posts, and reports in national and regional media delivered the campaign’s messages.
Several other countries will launch the Stronger With Breastmilk Only campaign during World Breastfeeding Week in August. This video from UNICEF offers some insight on the need for the campaign.
“This campaign challenges all stakeholders to focus on advocacy and communication in all its forms,” said Professor Léonie Claudine Lougue Sorgho, Minister of Health. “We can all promote exclusive breastfeeding as a member of the family unit and community, as a healthcare worker, and as communication, education or other development professionals by using the most powerful necessary tool: our voice.”
The Stronger With Breastmilk Only campaign seeks to mobilize partners, businesses, communities and families to ensure that mothers receive the appropriate information and support they need to adopt exclusive breastfeeding and thus give their children the best start in life.
In Burkina Faso, 4 in 10 infants receive fluids and food in addition to breast milk during their first six months of life, which contributes to malnutrition, illness and even death of children.
“Breast milk is an infant’s first vaccine and its best source of nutrients,” said Dr. Anne Vincent, UNICEF Representative in Burkina Faso. “Encouraging and helping mothers to give exclusively breastmilk, without water, for the first six months of their lives is a challenge which requires the support of not only medical personnel and political decisionmakers, but also the private sector and communities and families.”
To keep babies under the age of six months healthy, scientific data recommends giving them only breast milk on demand (day and night). Breast milk contains all the water and nutrients necessary for a child’s good growth. Infants who receive fluids and food in addition to breast milk before the age of six months are at increased risk of diarrhea, respiratory infections and undernutrition. The risk of death is up to three times higher than among those who are exclusively breastfed.
The lack of exclusive breastfeeding comes at a considerable cost. In addition to the thousands of preventable child deaths, stunted growth and reduced cognitive capacity of hundreds of thousands of children, the absence of breastfeeding costs more than 116 billion CFA francs per year in Burkina Faso.