In Myanmar, about half of all deaths among children under five occur during the first 28 days of life, and the majority of neonatal deaths are from preventable causes. Recognizing the need to accelerate reductions in neonatal mortality, Myanmar has committed to increasing the coverage and quality of early essential newborn care (EENC) interventions, and increasing rates of early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding.
In recent years, Myanmar has demonstrated great success in increasing the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding among infants under six months of age, with the prevalence nearly doubling in the past five years. This improvement is the result of the tireless effort and collaboration between the Government of Myanmar and its partners, as well as changing attitudes and behaviors of mothers, families, and communities. Key factors for success include:
Changing Face of Breastfeeding in Myanmar: A photo journal showcases eight women living as role models of the improving breastfeeding culture in Myanmar. In particular, the exclusive breastfeeding rate has more than doubled in the past 5 years. This improvement is the result of tireless efforts and collaborations between the Myanmar Government and its partners, as well as changing attitudes and behaviors of mothers, families, and communities. These efforts include:
- Implementation of a National Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding;
- Revitalization of the WHO/UNICEF Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI);
- Passage of the Order of Marketing of Formulated Food for Infant and Young Child (i.e. The Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes); and
- Increasing the duration of paid maternity leave for the private and public sectors;
- Coordinated policy advocacy for breastfeeding, supported by the Ministry of Health and Sports (MoHS), UNICEF, and others.
In early 2019, some of the world’s leading child rights and health organizations joined together with the MoHS, celebrities, hospitals, health centers and businesses in Myanmar, to implement a major campaign to reinforce the importance of breastfeeding exclusively for the first 6 months of a child’s life. The '6 months: Mother’s milk is all you need' campaign aims to empower mothers to exclusively breastfeed, while at the same time calls for support from the broader Myanmar community to help create a more breastfeeding friendly society. During the first three months of the campaign, activation teams reached 1 in 4 mothers giving birth in Yangon and Mandalay with inspirational bracelets and information on breastfeeding, while millions more were reached through social media and via key opinion leaders. A&T worked closely with country partners to design and disseminate the campaign messages and resources.
Acknowledging the critical role of breastmilk for newborn survival, health, and development, the MoHS is actively working to strengthen two existing human milk banks and to expand human milk bank services to other large hospitals in Myanmar. A&T is supporting the MoHS and working with a group of Myanmar’s leading newborn health specialist to develop systems and procedures to ensure safe provision of pasteurized donor human milk for vulnerable newborns who cannot access their own mothers’ milk within a supportive, breastfeeding-friendly hospital environment.
Moving forward, Myanmar is implementing the Multi-Sectoral Plan of Action for Nutrition (MS-NPAN) 2019–2023. The plan includes a package of essential nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions targeting mothers, children, and adolescent girls, which will be implemented through a coordinated approach across key ministries and departments. By improving breastfeeding and complementary feeding behaviors, while at the same time increasing access to essential health services and safe water and sanitation, Myanmar aims to further accelerate improvements in child nutrition and survival and meet its global World Health Assembly (WHA) 2025 and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2030 targets.
As part of expanding its work from Viet Nam to other countries in Southeast Asia and under a newly expanded memorandum of understanding between FHI 360’s Myanmar office and the MoHS, A&T’s Southeast Asia office team is providing strategic technical assistance to strengthen health systems to provide more breastfeeding-friendly services and to enhance enabling environments through effective implementation of policies to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding in Myanmar. This work will complement FHI 360 Myanmar’s technical assistance and strategic support to the health sector for building provider capacity and improving the quality of services at the national and local levels.