By PATRICK JARAMOGI
KAMPALA, Uganda [SHIFTMEDIA] Scores of innocent new born babies end up either dead or malnourished due to failure to access breastmilk that is a lifeline to the newborns.
This is so because Uganda’s legal system doesn’t cater for the recommended six months of breastfeeding.
Government dragged to court
Since Uganda’s population is growing at an alarming rate of 3% (percent), with over 44% of the children not breastfed in the first hour of birth, the Government will explain this in the courts of law why it is thus.
The Center For Food and Adequate Living Rights (CEFROHT) and scores of other Civil Society Organizations, like SEATINI Uganda has dragged government to the constitutional Court noting that these contravenes Article 21, 22, 30 and 33 of the Ugandan Constitution.
What the articles say?
Article 21 of the Constitution of Republic of Uganda prohibits gender discrimination generally and enshrines the principle of equality before the law, regardless of sex, race, color, ethnicity, tribe, religion, political belief, or social or economic standing.
Article 22 Protection of right to life
Article 30 No person shall be deprived of life intentionally except in execution of a sentence passed in a fair trial by a court of competent jurisdiction in respect of a criminal offence under the laws of Uganda and the conviction and sentence have been confirmed by the highest appellate court.
Article 33 Women shall be accorded full and equal dignity of the person with men. (2) The State shall provide the facilities and opportunities necessary to enhance the welfare of women to enable them to realize their full potential and advancement.
The Executive Director CEFROHT David Kabanda told the press in Kampala on Wednesday that the violations of women’s and new born babies rights prompted them to drag government to court.
”Breastfeeding is a constitutional right because it gives both mother and the baby rights to life. Children must exclusively be breastfed for 6 months, but our maternity leave in Uganda only lasts for only 60 days, what happens to the baby after those days,’ asked Counsel David Kabanda
He was addressing the presser as Uganda joined the rest of the world in commemorating the World Breastfeeding Day (WBD) that runs from August 1-7 annually.
”Our main concern is Section 56 of the Employment Act, 2006 which provides for 60 working days as maternity leave, but it remains silent on the other 3 months while the mother has gone back to work,” said Kabanda
This year’s theme that is: ‘Step up for Breastfeeding’, seeks to involve governments, communities and individuals. The theme aims to raise awareness about sustainable breastfeeding environments.
Kabanda said that despite the law being in place, government has failed to put in place sustainable breastfeeding environments for breastfeeding working mothers.
”The maternity leave also needs to be increased to enable new born babies get the required milk needed for positive growth. He warned men to desist from competing with babies for breastmilk.
World Health & UNICEF Statistics
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, Breastfeeding all babies for the first two years would save the lives of more than 820,000 children under the age of 5 annually.
”From the human rights perspective, it should be noted that infants are at greater risk of death due to diarrhea and other infections when they are only partially breastfed or not breastfed at all,” noted Kabanda.
Experts speak out
Dr. Doreen Mazekpwe the Founder Naturally Nourish, as well as a breastfeeding and lactation specialist said breastfeeding within the first hour allows the newborn baby to receive the benefits of the mothers colostrum, a nutrient-filled fluid produced before milk is released which boosts the baby’s newly developing immune system and protects them from illness in their first few months.
‘We therefore, call upon government to establish regulations that guide breastfeeding practices at the workplaces.
Catherine Nankinga, the Administrator at Center for Food and Adequate Living Rights said as Uganda joins the rest of the world in celebrating the World Breastfeeding Week, mothers should step-up breastfeeding education and support to protect babies’ and mothers’ rights.
”It is every child’s right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of health and adequate food, and it is not in vain that through breastfeeding, the child’s full potential is realized,” said Nankinga.
Herbert Kafeero the Communications Officer SEATINI Uganda said WBW is a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanize action on themes related to breastfeeding. ”WBW is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” he said.
He noted that much as the Ministry of Health had partnered with St. Francis Hospital in Nsambya to set up a Milk Bank, this needs to be scaled across the entire country so as to benefit many. Kafeero called upon government to strongly regulate the breastmilk substitute providers, many of whom he said were supplying adulterated milk.