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Speech for World Breastfeeding Week by UNICEF Representative in Viet Nam Jesper Morch

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Date: Friday 31 July 2009
Event: Press conference to launch World Breastfeeding Week
Venue: International Convention Centre, Ha Noi
Speaker: UNICEF Country Representative, Mr. Jesper Mørch

jesper_speechHonorable Vice- Minister of Health, Mr. Tran Chi Liem
Dear partners and UN colleagues,
Distinguished guests
Representatives from the media


I am delighted to be here with all of you to collectively raise the alarm on a situation that deserves the attention of everybody in this country – men as much as women. As we are all gathered here today, we share our common commitment to the betterment of the lives of children all over the world, and more specifically of children here in Viet Nam.

The promotion and protection of breastfeeding is fundamental in the fight for the survival and development of children around the globe. Here in Viet Nam, as we have heard already and will learn more about, only one out of every six mothers exclusively breastfeed their children. Although this is a slight improvement from previous years, there is still a long way to go to make sure that all children in Viet Nam are well protected in their early stages of life.

Our concern is based on evidence, let there be no doubt about that. Most recently reconfirmed by the Lancet, optimal breastfeeding in the first two years of life, and particularly exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, will have the single largest impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent 12 to 15 per cent of all under five deaths in the developing world.

The One UN in Viet Nam is therefore extremely pleased to have been part of ongoing discussions and planning with the Ministry of Health that resulted in the ‘Child Survival Action Plan’ with a strong commitment to attain a 50 per cent breastfeeding rate across the country by 2015. This requires strong action to almost triple the current rate of 17 per cent exclusive breastfeeding.

To reach the agreed goal by 2015, Viet Nam needs to strengthen its enforcement of the National Decree on Marketing of Breast Milk substitutes. The UN in Viet Nam stands ready to support the Government in the coordination, implementation and monitoring of all related policies, especially the Infant and Young Child Feeding action plan in the period 2009-2010 and the National Decree on the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes to promote and protect the right to breastfeed children.

It is important that with the effective implementation of the Decree, companies no longer engage in false advertising of the alleged benefits of breast milk substitutes, and exclusive breastfeeding promotion is protected. What is most important is for mothers to feel supported and encouraged by their immediate environment: their partner, families, the health workers, employers and the mass media; all should know and repeat what the right thing is to do, for the benefit of both mother and child.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To make sure that exclusive breastfeeding will be protected and promoted in Viet Nam and a supportive environment is established for breastfeeding mothers, a strong partnership is needed; a partnership between the Government of Viet Nam, the UN, non-governmental organizations and civil society at large. We therefore also need a strong partnership between local authorities, health practitioners and communities. Everyone has a role to play and together we can make sure we create the utmost protective and supportive environment for exclusive breastfeeding.

As you can see around this room today, on the occasion of the World Breastfeeding week the message “Exclusive Breastfeeding for the first six months of life, the smart choice for child survival and development”, should sound through in all health facilities, hospitals and homes across the country. We need your help to make this happen!

Let me end by again expressing my appreciation for the commitment of the Government to prioritize breastfeeding promotion as an important public health intervention. WHO, UNICEF and other development partners look forward to intensified action in the very near future and we count on your cooperation as well. 2015 is around the corner, so let’s get to work, to make sure that every child born in Viet Nam will be given a chance to survive, grow and develop into a healthy and strong young citizen.

Thank you.

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