HARARE residents have joined the world in celebrating breastfeeding week, which which seeks to promote breast feeding across the globe.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is marked annually in the first week of August and represents a global celebration of breastfeeding efforts including breastfeeding promotion, support, education, research, progressive trends and normalising breastfeeding as the gold standard of infant nutrition.
The Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) said the commemorations, running under the theme, “Protect Breastfeeding: A shared responsibility”, come at a time when most council clinics which provide maternal and post-natal health care services have been overwhelmed due to the mass exodus of health personnel triggered by poor working conditions.
“The situation has been further worsened by the advent of Covid-19 which has seen a deterioration of post-natal and maternal health care services as Covid-19 has become a ‘priority’ due to its devastating effects,” said CHRA.
“Provision of quality post-natal health care services is essential in protecting breastfeeding as breastfeeding is one of the effective ways to ensure child growth, health and survival.
“We urge lactating mothers, employers and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to take the breastfeeding agenda more seriously especially after the disruption of breastfeeding by the advent of Covid-19.”
CHRA said employers must improve working conditions for women by providing spaces and times at the workplace for women to breastfeed their children.
“We concur with the Government’s devolution and decentralisation policy that devolved mandates on local authorities which are unaccompanied by adequate financial capacities would overwhelm local authorities’ limited resources and ultimately lead to poor service delivery outcomes.
“Provision of primary health care services by local authorities without adequate financing is one of the ‘unfunded mandates’ our local authorities have been grappling with for a long period and we therefore call upon the Government to provide adequate health grants to local authorities for the purposes of improving post-natal and other health services,” said CHRA.
It also called for urgent intervention in improving the working conditions of health personnel at council clinics to ensure provision of quality post-natal health services to nursing mothers.
“We bemoan that Covid-19 has been used as an excuse by some health personnel in council clinics to turn away women in accessing maternal and post-natal services, with some nurses demanding bribes to attend to these desperate women.
“We assert that quality health care services can be achieved through a devolved system of governance as provided for in Chapter 14 of the Constitution.”