Research Press Release

Mapping exclusive breastfeeding in Africa between 2000 and 2017

Nature Medicine

July 23, 2019

Most African countries will not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Nutrition Target of 50% exclusive breastfeeding prevalence by 2025, according to a new study published online this week in Nature Medicine.

Exclusive breastfeeding - the practice of feeding an infant only breastmilk, with no additional food, milk or water - during the first 6 months of life is thought to be one of the most effective strategies for reducing child mortality. In 2014, WHO member states committed to achieving Global Nutrition Targets aimed at improving maternal, infant and young-child nutrition by 2025.

Simon Hay and colleagues conducted a fine-scale geospatial analysis of the prevalence and trends in exclusive breastfeeding in 49 African countries. They showed that only 37% of infants under 6 months of age were exclusively breastfed in 2017, and observed substantial variation within and among countries across the continent. In addition, they found that only 18 of the 49 African countries included in the analysis are on track to meeting the WHO target of 50% coverage at the national level by 2025.

In an accompanying News & Views article, Penelope Reimers and colleagues note the usefulness of this research for informing policy development and implementation at the national and local levels. They also underscore the fundamental need to account for social and community context and the lived experiences of mothers and their children when considering policies to promote exclusive breastfeeding.

doi:10.1038/s41591-019-0525-0

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