World Vision International in Cambodia (WVI-C), UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO), Alive & Thrive (A&T/FHI360), Helen Keller International, Plan International Cambodia and the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance (SUN-CSA) have collaborated to conduct a journalism competition under the theme "Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents" in celebration of World Breastfeeding Week 2023.
This competition was convened with several specific objectives, including: positively influencing policies related to promoting breastfeeding; increasing awareness of the challenges faced by mothers in Cambodia who intend to exclusively breastfeed their child for their first six months of life, and wish to continue breastfeeding for longer; and providing feasible solutions that working mothers can adopt to overcome challenges and barriers to breastfeeding. A total of 19 journalists from different news outlets took part in the competition, including Apsara Media Services (AMS), Cambodian Muslim Media Center (CMMC), Cambodia Press Agency (CPA), Cambodian Center for Independent Media (CCIM), Cambodian Islamic Voice TV (CITV), CamboJA, Khmer Times, Kiripost, Mongkol Media, Radio France International (RFI), Radio National of Kampuchea (RNK), Phnom Penh Post (PPP), Thmey Thmey, Vayo FM, and Women’s Radio.
“The importance of the media in promoting breastfeeding and informing policy-making in Cambodia cannot be overstated. News coverage can help raise awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding and the need for policies and programmes to support breastfeeding. It can also help dispel myths and misconceptions and provide mothers with accurate information on how to breastfeed their babies,” said Ms. Kirsty Milev, Programme Quality Director at World Vision International in Cambodia.
“I am proud to celebrate the achievements of the journalists who have participated in this competition,” said Dr. Will Parks, UNICEF Cambodia Representative. “They have shown how the media can be a powerful force for good in raising awareness of and advocating for breastfeeding practices that benefit both mothers and children. As we mark this occasion, let us also reaffirm our commitment to creating a supportive environment that enables mothers to breastfeed in all settings, from the health facility to the home and the workplace. This is how we can ensure that every child gets the best start in life.”
According to WHO and UNICEF, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to prevent malnutrition and ensure children’s healthy growth and development. Breast milk is an easily digestible source of all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that a baby needs to thrive and is crucial for a baby’s well-being. Breastfeeding also provides health benefits for mothers, including a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Despite these benefits and the recommendations of UNICEF and WHO, the percentage of Cambodian infants who are exclusively breastfed over their first six months of life has decreased over the past decade, dropping from 74% in 2010 to 65% in 2014 and further down to 50% in 2021-2022.
“Breastfeeding is critical for the health and well-being of children and mothers. Family members are important drivers in supporting and encouraging mothers to breastfeed successfully. Especially for women who have to go back to work, they can also continue to breastfeed their babies by expressing their breastmilk or creating a lactation room at the workplace. Therefore, the workplace needs to have equitable working conditions for working mothers to breastfeed their children to ensure their children are healthy and free from malnutrition,” said H.E. Dr. Prak Sophonneary, Secretary of State, Ministry of Health.
By utilizing diverse communication channels including radio, television, newspapers and social media, the media plays a vital role in disseminating information about breastfeeding, its benefits and the best practices for mothers to follow. Such active promotion and awareness raising contribute to reducing malnutrition among children under five years old in Cambodia.
“This collaborative effort involving multiple partners is pivotal for improving the health and well-being of Cambodian children and mothers. Media plays an important role in this endeavour, and we strongly encourage media outlets to continue to cover this issue and raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding in Cambodia,” said Mrs. Chin Sedtha, Programme Manager, Alive & Thrive/FHI360.
“The media and social media have played a crucial role by contributing to improving breastfeeding rates and fostering breastfeeding in Cambodia through raising awareness, educating the public, normalizing breastfeeding, portraying role models, and advocating for supportive policies. We would like to encourage the media to continue promoting exclusive and longer breastfeeding, especially among working parents in Cambodia,” said Mr. Yi Kimthan, Deputy Country Director–Program, Plan International Cambodia.
"Breastfeeding is not just a personal choice, but a collective responsibility to support working parents and ensure a healthy start for their children. By providing enabling environments and advocating for supportive policies, we can empower working parents to make breastfeeding a shared reality in their lives. Through this journalism competition, we hope to amplify the voices and stories that highlight the positive impact of breastfeeding on both working parents and their children," said Mr. Hou Kroeun, Country Director of Helen Keller Intl Cambodia.