The media world over is awash with pictures and the smallest updates about the Prince born in England to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. Prince George Alexandar Louis was born days ago and many of us have been tweeting and most facebook updates have been about this. But my thinking is that other than the fact that he is born to a wealthy family, he is more or less like any other baby born in any part of the world and Uganda for that matter. When a baby is born, it is a time of celebration and indeed you can see the prince and princess are all smiles, alternating carrying the baby and so on.
I imagined if Prince George was born in a village in Uganda, would he survive to celebrate his fifth birthday? According to the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS), 2011, one in every 11 children in Uganda does not survive past the age of five. Worse still, 106 children die daily before they reach one month according to the UDHS.
The advice Kate Middleton will receive from any medical practitioner is the same advise a mother in Oyam or Budibugyo would receive. World over, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed their child within the first hour of birth. Uganda has one of the highest deaths of newborns in the world with almost 39,000 newborns dying every day according to the UDHS, 2011. The impact of delayed breastfeeding on the health of the child is not known but at least research shows that it enhances the life of the child and helps them to bond with the mother.
Many mothers especially the working class are substituting breast feeding with bottle feeding. Many are spending large sums of money buying baby formulae and other feeds for their children yet exclusive breastfeeding will yield better results than the most expensive baby formulae can deliver.
Prince William acknowledged that he changed a nappy already. This may be news to us given that he can afford to pay thousands of workers to attend to his baby but he has not delegated a responsibility like that. When the fathers are more involved in parenting, both mother and babies will be in better health.
This year as we mark the World Breast Feeding Week which starts annually from 1st to 7th August, we are focusing on enhancing community support for optimal breast feeding for a healthy, well-nourished and HIV free generation. The biggest question is what is involved in that community support. I know it has a lot of components but I would emphasize the fact that if fathers provide a conducive atmosphere and encourage their wives to breast feed, then a healthy nation is not a far off dream.
Simplistic, it may sound, but mothers need a lot of support if they are to breastfeed effectively. There should be support care groups in the community to help respond to parent’s questions about breastfeeding practices. These may be experienced mothers who can answer support young mothers and respond to some questions; this also includes trained health care personnel who can train mothers to breast feed better. This will go a long way in increasing the current number of mothers who are breastfeeding in the community.