Our regular bloggers have teamed up with Blog Action Day to bring you posts on the topic of poverty. Tens of thousands of blogs will feature posts on this year's topic. Check out the other contributing bloggers below, and at Blog Action Day.
For my part, I'm writing about how breastfeeding in the developing world fights poverty, and ways you can help.
So, how does breastfeeding fight poverty here and in the developing world?
Breastfeeding fights disease in impoverished regions. As you know, breastfeeding provides critical support against many diseases, and it is nowhere more important than in the developing world. This quote, from James P. Grant, former executive director of UNICEF, says it far better than I can:
Breastfeeding is a natural "safety net" against the worst effects of poverty. If the child survives the first month of life (the most dangerous period of childhood) then for the next four months or so, exclusive breastfeeding goes a long way toward canceling out the health difference between being born into poverty and being born into affluence .... It is almost as if breastfeeding takes the infant out of poverty for those first few months in order to give the child a fairer start in life and compensate for the injustice of the world into which it was born.
Purchasing formula can drive families into poverty. Breastfeeding is free. Formula can bankrupt an already poor family. In the Philippines, a small can of formula is equivalent to a day's worth of work for a minimum-wage earning parent. This forces some parents into choosing between feeding their babies and feeding themselves or older children. Or they make the dangerous decision to dilute the formula to stretch it further, and babies suffer as a result.
Breastfeeding helps control fertility in the developing world. Breastfeeding is a primary way women in developing countries control their fertility. This control over family size helps mothers provide better for the children they have. Breastfeeding plays such an important role in fertility that La Leche League's Breastfeeding Answer Book cites an estimate that if all breastfeeding were to stop, within a year there would be a 20 to 30 percent rise in the birthrate worldwide.
Breastfeeding uses fewer natural resources. As I've written before, breastfeeding uses far less natural resources than formula feeding. The manufacture of formula leads to deforestation for cattle grazing, and uses resources for manufacturing, packaging, and transport. Poor families in developing countries will be hard hit by the effects of global climate change.
Breastfeeding has been called "a natural safety net against the worst effects of poverty." But breastfeeding rates are alarmingly low in one place where that safety net is needed most: downtrodden neighborhoods in Jakarta — Indonesia's sprawling, 23-million-person capital.
The Breastfeeding Kit covers the cost to train a breastfeeding counselor to support mothers and their families at a neighborhood health clinic in Jakarta. Proceeds from the kit fund Mercy Corps' Healthy Start program, which works in 270 of Jakarta's poorest neighborhoods to protect and promote breastfeeding by:
- training health providers and clinics
- creating neighborhood support groups
- organizing awareness events
- lobbying policymakers
Check out these other posts for this special Carnival/Blog Action Day (updated throughout the day):
- Breastfeeding 1-2-3: Five damaging myths about breastfeeding and poverty.
- Breastfeeding Mums: How poverty of knowledge about breastfeeding hurts society.
- Babyfingers: An ounce of prevention.
- Mama Knows Breast: Breastfeeding can fight poverty.