A national breast-feeding promotion campaign has been under way in Turkmenistan, aimed at raising the population's awareness of its significance and benefits.
Dilara Ayazova, a project assistant for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), explained to IRIN from the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, on Tuesday that this was the second annual national breast-feeding week, held in the first week of September.
The week-long promotional campaign aimed at drawing public attention to the issue has been carried out by UNICEF and the Turkmen government in all the country's provinces. Awareness raising activities via the media and special community events have been conducted in many places.
Material on the benefits of breast-feeding have been published in most national and regional newspapers, there have been television programmes on the issue and various events have been organised with the involvement of public and groups for supporting mothers, Ayazova noted.
"The significance of this activity is to raise awareness among the population on the importance and usefulness of breast-feeding. Basically it is the equivalent of the world breast-feeding week which is generally held all over the world in August," she added.
According to UNICEF, breast-feeding is the perfect way to provide the best food for a baby's first six months of life. Along with that, breast-feeding protects babies from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections, stimulates their immune systems and improves response to vaccinations, and contains many hundreds of health-enhancing molecules, enzymes, proteins and hormones.
"Breast-feeding facilitates the child's healthy development as mother's milk contain all the necessary elements that a baby needs. Moreover, the risk of infectious diseases falls, and infant mortality can be reduced by up to 15 percent," the UNICEF official explained.
International health institutions suggest that babies who are breast-fed have fewer illnesses and are better nourished than those who are fed other drinks and foods. If all babies were fed only breast milk for the first six months, the lives of an estimated 1.5 million infants worldwide would be saved every year and the health and development of millions of others would be greatly improved, they say.