Among others, the ministers have developed regional regulations to fight promotion and use of artificial milk to infants.
Addressing journalists, the Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu said that among agenda items for the meeting is how to come up with better ways to improve nutrition within the bloc.
“After going through intense discussion on how to encourage exclusive breastfeeding for infants, we (ministers) decided to come up with an agreement to restrict promotion of artificial milk,” she said.
The minister said that many babies in the country are not well breastfed with some mothers opting to use artificial milk for unnecessary reasons.
Recently, a pediatrician and breastfeeding specialist at the Aga Khan Hospital, Dr Mariam Noorani said that breast milk is a baby’s first vaccine, the first and best protection they have against illness and disease with newborns.
Lack of breastfeeding accounts for nearly half of all deaths of children under five, so early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death, she stated.
“With breast milk being the major medicine and protection for various baby diseases, we have as specialists to intensify our efforts so that many more Tanzanian children and their mothers benefit from optimal breastfeeding practices,” she emphasized.
She said that the rate of malnutrition among children in the country remains a challenge due to ignorance about appropriate infant feeding, with two-thirds of deaths of under-five children blamed on improper feeding.
Reports show half of babies in Tanzania are not exclusively breastfed in the first six months, while babies who receive no breast milk at all are seven times more likely to die from infections than those who received at least some breast milk in their first six months of life.
The reports also show that many mothers don’t follow recommendations by health experts that babies should receive regular breastfeeding for their first six months, which results in acute malnutrition and stunting among children.
Other estimates show that Tanzania has more than 2.7 million children aged less than five years who are stunted. Another 430,000 plus children suffer from acute malnutrition, with 100,000 of them diagnosed as having severely acute malnutrition, which means they are at high risk of dying if they don’t receive proper treatment.