Mothers in flood areas urged to stick to breastfeeding

The Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have appealed to all relevant parties to be mindful of the continued need for breastfeeding of infants during the current flood and landslide emergency, and caution against unnecessary and potentially harmful donations and use of infant formula and powdered milk.In emergency situations where food supplies and access to safe water is extremely limited, infants and children in affected areas remain highly vulnerable to diarrhea and other diseases. Breast milk can provide the critical nutrients and immune support to infants which can help protect against infections. Due to the risks associated with the preparation of formula and powdered milk in an emergency situation where clean water, clean pots and cooking facilities are not available, the health risks to infants who are not breastfed is significantly higher.Donations of formula milk increases the vulnerability of infants exposing them to infection, diarrhea and other severe complications. Hence donations of formula milk or powdered milk must be avoided in emergencies. Where necessary, for orphaned infants it will be supplied by the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine (MoH) or the Provincial/District level health authorities.It is important not to lose sight of what is best for infants and children and to foster an environment in which mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding and safe complementary feeding in the difficult circumstances following the flood and landslide disaster. (Colombo Gazette) The health risks for babies who are not breastfed can be significantly higher. Every effort should be taken to protect and support breastfeeding among all breastfeeding mothers affected by the disaster. “We are facing a severe challenge with the current emergency and this can lead to risk of sickness and diseaseamong children” said Dr. Sarath Amunugama actg. Director General of Health Services of the Ministry of Health.“Continued breastfeeding is critical to ensure good health and well-being of infants and toddlers up to 2 years ofage”. All infants up to 6 months of age should be exclusively breastfed even during a time of disaster. Children up to the age of 2 years and beyond should be given breast milk along with safe and adequate complementary feeding as per the national guidelines. Giving infant formula during a disaster situation can easily create a double disaster, as infants given formula will invariably develop diarrheal diseases and lead to higher risk of death. read more

UN event highlights need to provide access to financial services to the

“The rapid spread of new information and communications technologies, and, in particular, mobile technologies, is increasingly making more services available to the world’s poor,” the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Helen Clark, said earlier this week at an event that brought together members of the private sector, development agencies as well as policymakers on the margins of the General Assembly’s annual high-level debate. “Access to mobile phones can be a game changer for the poor, particularly for those 2.5 billion adults who do not currently have access to financial services. Yet such access can contribute to poverty alleviation, development, and growth. With mobile technology, it is within reach.”Miss Clark emphasized the role of partnerships in making financial services more accessible. Partnerships, she said, bring leadership, expertise and experiences together, and this is only possible if there is collaboration among various sectors of society.“At UNDP, we firmly believe that by partnering together and leveraging the world’s current digital transformation, financial inclusion and inclusive growth can be significantly advanced.”During the event, attendees had the opportunity to hear from leaders in the digital technology field – including philanthropist and former CEO of Microsoft Bill Gates – on how they see technology driving greater financial inclusion.Miss Clark spotlighted UNDP initiatives across the globe which have used technology for social inclusion. In Haiti for example, the UNDP CARMEN project introduced the first ever mobile money transfer mechanism to support post-disaster housing reconstruction.In India, UNDP worked with local banks and mobile providers to enable rural workers to open bank accounts remotely. And in Fiji, UNDP and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) supported the department of welfare to ensure 24,000 social welfare recipients received their benefits on time without having to undertake long journeys to pick up cash.“The future will be digital in support of so many, often small, everyday activities – easing and facilitating our daily lives,” said the Executive Secretary of UNCDF, Marc Bichler, adding that the benefits of this will greatly impact the post-2015 development agenda.The event was co-hosted by UNDP, UNCDF and the Better than Cash Alliance, an initiative that partners with governments, the development community and the private sector to empower people by shifting from cash to electronic payments. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Citi, Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, USAID and Visa Inc. are the founders of the Alliance and the UNCDF serves as the secretariat. read more