Nearly one lakh children die every year in India due to diseases that could have been prevented through breastfeeding, according to a United Nations report, which also notes that mortality and other losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding can cost the country’s economy $14 billion.
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, points out that breastfeeding not only helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants, it also helps reduce mothers’ risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
In China, India, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia alone, inadequate breastfeeding is responsible for more than 2,36,000 child deaths each year.
In these countries, the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding are estimated to be almost USD 119 billion a year.
The report says that despite a reported 55 percent exclusive breastfeeding rate in children below the age of six months, the large population in India and high under-five mortality means that an estimated 99,499 children die each year as a result of cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia that could have been prevented through early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding.
Further, the high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and type II diabetes attributable to inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to drain the Indian economy of $7 billion. Together with another $7 billion in costs related to cognitive losses, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy or 0.70 percent of its Gross National Income.