PAHO/WHO for Suriname, 12 March 2020 - Coming from a situation where exclusive breastfeeding of babies for the first 6 months of life was difficult to "sell" to the parents, because formula was being offered for a very low price (including 80% Government subsidy), the Mungra Medical Center (MMC) is the first health care facility that succeeded to become accredited as Baby Friendly on 6 March 2020.
Suriname has a poor record regarding breastfeeding, which can affect survival and developmental outcomes of children. Only 10% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, which is among the lowest in the world. To protect and promote breastfeeding in Suriname, the Ministry of Health started a process of certification with technical and financial assistance from PAHO/WHO and UNICEF. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative process started in the early 1990s, and was re-energized in April 2017.
Dr. Cleopatra Jessurun, the acting director of Health, expressed her hope to increase the figures of breastfeeding in the country. “The benefits are not to be underestimated for the further development of Suriname and MMC will play a pioneering role in this. We hope that soon all other institutions will follow the example of being certified as a Baby-Friendly facility, so we can improve the figures in Suriname where we score so low regionally and globally with regard to breastfeeding in the first 6 months and be proud of that too.”
All 5 hospitals in the country, as well as the Regional Health Services and the Medical Mission together embarked on the journey with a joint pledge to strive for high-quality standards according to WHO and UNICEF guidelines. The Mungra Medical Center is the first facility to successfully complete all requirements to become certified as Baby Friendly. A Baby-Friendly designation is treated as a special award that only facilities that provide excellent health care for newborns can attain.
In his speech, Dr. Patrick Matala from UNICEF emphasized the importance of this initiative for the development of the child, while Dr. Karen Lewis-Bell, the PAHO/WHO Representative, highlighted the health system requirements.
"The systematic approach to improving facility policies and practices, and the visibility and rewarding nature of the designation of 'baby-friendly' status, are appreciated by many. For facilities that were designated, the process of becoming baby-friendly was often motivating and transformative, changing the whole environment and practices around infant feeding. Because of this, care in these facilities became more patient-centered; staff attitudes about infant feeding improved; and skill levels to support new mothers dramatically increased. Use of infant formula typically reduced dramatically, and the use of nurseries for newborn babies was also reduced. The quality of care for breastfeeding clearly improved in facilities that were designated as “baby-friendly," said Dr. Lewis-Bell. She called on stakeholders to ensure that Mungra Medical Centre adheres to the criteria when recertification is needed. She also ensured the support from PAHO/WHO and UNICEF to the continuous effort at the national level for all facilities providing maternal and newborn care to become Baby Friendly.