Throughout 2015, Ireland was bestowed the huge honour and responsibility of co-facilitating discussions between world leaders in an effort to reach consensus on sustainable development goals. These intergovernmental negotiations culminated in a global document containing 17 sustainable development goals and 169 targets: Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Sustainable Development Goals (STGs), which all UN member states have agreed to achieve by 2030, was formally adopted by world leaders in September 2015.
This year, World Breastfeeding Week serves to raise awareness of the STGs through it’s theme “Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable Development”.
Well-established evidence shows that breastfeeding is one of the smartest investments that countries can make to ensure a healthy, equitable and sustainable future. In low-, middle- and high-income countries alike, the benefits for individuals and families include ending preventable child deaths and improving health, educational attainment, and productivity. Stronger breastfeeding policies and programmes are essential to driving progress in reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health— and they directly support the achievement of numerous Sustainable Development Goals and the Global Strategy for Women’s Children’s and Adolescents’ Health. (Breastfeeding: A Key To Sustainable Development, Alive & Thrive)
Dr. Amal Omer-Salim, WABA’s Co-Executive Director said, “Celebrations should mark on-going efforts to learn from achievements and overcome challenges. The annual WBW celebration should be more than a week-long effort. By focusing on a broader context, longer time frame and practical yet ambitious goals, we can create sustainable and engaging campaigns. Let us campaign for a generation!”
Research from the recently published Lancet Breastfeeding Series, underscored the importance of improving breastfeeding practices in driving progress towards achieving the STGs. It’s second paper, Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? found that despite the positive impact that breastfeeding has on health and the global economy, in the absence of investment and national policies, women lack the necessary supports they need to sustain breastfeeding. Obstacles to increasing breastfeeding include:
- Gaps in knowledge among healthcare providers that leave women without access to accurate information or support; and
- Lack of strong support systems among family and community, as well as cultural traditions unsupportive of breastfeeding.
Ireland has an opportunity to continue the unique role it played in reaching STG consensus. World Breastfeeding Week 2016 runs from August 1-7 and provides a platform to link breastfeeding to sustainability, economic growth and national health. As our government develops budgets and action plans to achieve the STG targets by 2030, it is imperative that breastfeeding is recognised and prioritised as a powerful intervention that benefits not just child health, but many of the Sustainable Development Goals.