HA NOI — An amendment to the Labour Code lengthening maternity leave to six months is expected to increase the rate of children being breast-fed, said Pham Thi Thanh Hong, deputy head of the Viet Nam General Federation of Labour's Women's Department.
|Mothers in HCM City breast-feed their babies in a move to promote breast feeding. — VNA/VNS Photo Phuong Vy
The law will be put into effect as of May next year.
The rate of children breast-fed during the first six months of infancy had increased slightly in recent years, however, it had not reached expected levels, said Nguyen Duc Vinh, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's Children and Mother's Health Department at a press conference yesterday.
The rate in 2006 was 16.9 per cent whereas the rate in 2010 was 19.6 per cent, according to a survey by the National Institute of Nutrition.
"The low rate of breast-feeding has resulted in a high rate of malnourished children, and some targets set in the National Nutrition Strategy have not been reached," said Vinh.
The strategy targeted that by 2010, 60 per cent of children would be breast-fed in the first six months, and the rate of child malnourishment would fall below 20 per cent. However, the survey showed that nearly 30 per cent of under-five-year-olds were malnourished.
Every year, millions of Vietnamese children suffered from illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia caused by malnourishment, he said.
Hong pointed out that the main reason for the issue was the short maternity leave regulations and the lack of other supportive policies for women.
To intensify the number of breast-fed children, the Ministry of Health yesterday launched the 2012 Viet Nam Breastfeeding Week with the theme "Breast Milk Today - Health Tomorrow".
The 2012 Viet Nam Breastfeeding Week was organised with co-operation from the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, the World Health Organisation and the Alive&Thrive Project.
During the week, the Ministry of Health is calling for communication and dissemination activities across the country, including broadcasting films, multimedia reports, leaflets, and consultancy for pregnant women in medical clinics.
Associate professor Nguyen Viet Tien, Deputy Minister of Health, said that the health sector considered mother and child's health as a top priority.
"The ministry said that if the rate of breast-feeding is not improved, we cannot implement the Millennium Development Goals that Viet Nam pledged to the international community," he said.
Meanwhile, Jesper Moller, UNICEF's Standing Representative in Viet Nam, said breastfeeding in the first six months would ensure new-borns' health, create a stable work force for the future, and reduce healthcare expenses for malnourished children in Viet Nam.
"With the approval of the six-month maternity leave period, Viet Nam has become a pioneer country in setting up regulations protecting mother and child's health," he said. — VNS