Call for support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in Haiti

NEW YORK, 21 January 2010 – During emergency situations, disease and death rates among under-five children are higher than for any other age group; the younger the infant the higher the risk. Mortality risk is particularly high because of the combined impact of a greatly increased prevalence of communicable diseases and diarrhoea and soaring rates of under-nutrition. Appropriate feeding and care of infants and young children is essential to preventing malnutrition, morbidity and mortality.

Major health problems among Haitian children, which have been exacerbated by this crisis, are acute and chronic malnutrition and communicable diseases. Given the structural damage caused by the earthquake to water supply systems, there is an additional risk of water borne diseases affecting large numbers of the urban, rural and displaced populations. Many infants and young children have been orphaned or separated from their mothers. Risks to children in Haiti are exacerbated by pre-earthquake poor infant and young child feeding practices and malnutrition. In this emergency situation, the lifeline offered by exclusive breastfeeding to children for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding with complementary feeding for two years or more is of utmost importance and must be protected, promoted and supported as much as possible.