Source: All Africa
The United Nations Children's Fund has warned HIV positive Namibian mothers to desist from mixed feeding as it could be detrimental to the health of their infants.

Unicef country representative Micaela Marques de Sousa pointed this out during the official opening of a three-day media training workshop on the linkage between infant and young child feeding (IYCF) and the code of marketing of breast milk substitutes to HIV positive mothers in infant survival hosted by the Namibia Network of AIDS Service Organisations (Nanaso) and Unicef yesterday.

She described mixed feeding as "dangerous" to infants and discouraged mothers from this practice and to only introduce solid food after six months. She urged mothers to stick to exclusive breastfeeding until then.

Unicef statistics reveal that in Namibia, the exclusive breastfeeding rate at six months is 27% and the practice of mixed feeding, which refers to breastfeeding and giving other foods or liquids between birth and six months is common in Namibia.

"Mixed feeding during the infant's first six months of life has been proven to increase the transmission of HIV from mother to infant. Exclusive breastfeeding therefore provides protection to infants against mother to child transmission," reads the joint concept note of the workshop by Unicef and Nanaso.

The organisation further said the stunting prevalence of children under five is 24%, showing the urgency of increased awareness about the benefits of recommended infant and young child feeding practices and how this affects HIV exposed and non-exposed infants. Deputy director in the primary health care directorate of the ministry of health Majory van Wyk, who was also presenting at the workshop, reiterated that there was a need to extend maternity leave from three to six months, aware that her suggestion may be challenged and face resistance from employers.

"One person cannot ask for the extension [of maternity leave in Namibia]; it will take a [dedicated] group," she said, adding that mothers should also be excused for at least 30 minutes a day from their work places to breastfeed their babies.

In a speech read on his behalf by acting permanent secretary Rosalia Penda, minister of information Tjekero Tweya urged the media to be exposed to the new trends in development in relation to HIV management and child welfare.

The workshop is aimed at training the media in accurately reporting and promoting the urgency of the HIV child case rate in Namibia, breastfeeding in infant and young child feeding in order to increase HIV-exposed infant survival. The workshops also aims to increase awareness with regards to IYCF and the role of the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.

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