ISLAMABAD - Global Breastfeeding Week is being observed from August 1 to August 7 across the globe including Pakistan.

This presents a significant opportunity to highlight the critical agenda of breastfeeding for saving children's lives. However, this initiative cannot just be a one week effort; what we need is strong political will and sustained advocacy efforts around the year to promote this critical issue.

Each hour 95 babies can be saved globally if a mother breastfeeds in the first hour of life. In Pakistan where newborns account for nearly 50 per cent of all child deaths, breastfeeding in first hour of birth can prevent deaths of nearly 53,000 children every year. These figures were released in Save the Children global report titled 'Super Food for Babies: how overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children's lives', which was launched earlier in 2013. We can save thousands of lives simply by practicing exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life and complementing that with soft foods afterwards. This could prevent thousands of Pakistani children from dying each year.

It is pertinent to note that one-in-eight of the young lives lost each year could be saved through breastfeeding alone. Globally, that means 830,000 more children could live to celebrate their fifth birthday.

As a stepping stone Pakistan voted in favour of adopting the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes during the World Health Assembly in May 1981, and later the government promulgated "The Protection of Breastfeeding and Young Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002" to enforce this code. The ordinance prohibits the promotion of any milk produced as partial or total replacement for mother's milk or represented as a complement to mother's milk to meet the growing nutritional needs of an infant. Furthermore, the ordinance requires from health workers to encourage, support and protect breastfeeding.

Save the Children called upon Government of Pakistan, to take necessary steps for the effective implementation of the Protection of Breastfeeding and Young Child Nutrition Ordinance 2002, including notification of the Infant Feeding Board by in the official Gazette to monitor implementation of the law. Such steps will go a long way in ensuring better prospects of a healthy life for millions of children in Pakistan.

In light of the benefits and barriers to breastfeeding, Save the Children recommends that the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan should: Fund projects that changes power and gender dynamics to empower young women to make their own decisions, Ensure that every woman has a skilled health worker present when she delivers her child so that the health system becomes stronger to protect, promote and support breastfeeding, Improve breast milk substitute industry practices through lobbying for change within the industry whilst also seeking to tighten national regulation in the countries where they operate.