THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that mothers with confirmed COVID-19 infection can still breastfeed saying the benefits of doing so substantially outweighed the potential risks of transmitting the virus to their children.

BY PHYLLIS MBANJE

In a joint statement with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to mark breastfeeding week, WHO said as long as the mothers practised regular hygiene and prevention practices, breastfeeding was the best option in the face of increased child malnutrition.

World Breastfeeding Week is held every year from August 1 to 7 in more than 120 countries.

The Health ministry also advised breastfeeding mothers against weaning their babies after testing positive to COVID-19.

“Even if you are unwell, suspect or have confirmed COVID-19 continue breastfeeding,” the ministry said in a statement.

The unprecedented global social and economic crises triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic have posed grave risks to the nutritional status and survival of young children in low-income and middle-income countries.

“Of particular concern is an unexpected increase in child malnutrition, including reduction in infant and young child feeding practices, due to steep declines in household incomes,” the Unicef and WHO statement read.

This comes at a time Zimbabwe has witnessed a rise in bottle feeding which does not only increase the health risk to the infants, but also contributes more to pollution.

“Particularly during events such as this global COVID-19 pandemic, communities must remain aware of the benefits of breastfeeding over breast milk substitutes.”

Evidence has shown that globally scaling up breastfeeding could prevent 2 000 maternal deaths, 823 000 child deaths, and US$302 billion in economic losses every year.

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