World Breastfeeding Week: Preventing diarrheal disease

Good infant feeding practices prevent diarrheal disease

A message from USAID’s Infant & Young Child Nutrition (IYCN) Project and PATH

August 6, 2009

Dear colleagues,

As we continue to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, the IYCN Project and PATH invite you to learn more about our efforts to promote and support good infant feeding practices to prevent diarrheal disease and to mitigate the effects of illness on nutritional status.  

IYCN recently joined PATH and nearly 100 other partners from the health, water and sanitation, and environmental sectors to sign a Call to Action to raise awareness and catalyze momentum on programs that address diarrheal disease control. PATH’s Call to Action and a related report highlight good breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices as critical lifesaving interventions in the fight against diarrhea–a global killer that claims the lives of nearly 4,000 children each day.

There is an 11-fold increase in the risk of infants dying from diarrhea when they are not exclusively breastfed in their first six months of life. Malnutrition, often caused by inadequate infant feeding practices, can result in a five-to-ten-fold increase in a child’s risk of death from diarrhea.1 By promoting and supporting good infant feeding practices at all times, including during and after illness, IYCN and PATH are working together to prevent malnutrition and reduce diarrheal disease. Learn more and join the call to action.

Next week, we will continue our joint efforts as we participate in the 10th Commonwealth Association of Paediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition Congress on Diarrhoea & Malnutrition in Blantyre, Malawi. The conference will highlight optimal infant feeding practices and other solutions to prevent malnutrition and address diarrheal disease in the developing world. Highlights will include:

New IYCN research in Malawi reveals barriers to feeding infants during illness

As part of an infant feeding panel on August 14, Bunda College of Agriculture will present the findings from the first phase of a recent research study aimed at understanding infant feeding practices in Malawi. The study, conducted in collaboration with IYCN and the World Bank, revealed how mothers feed their babies during and after illnesses such as diarrhea. Visit the IYCN website to learn more.  

IYCN promotes the prevention of severe acute malnutrition

In a poster presentation on August 15, IYCN will make a case, from published literature, for investing in prevention of severe acute malnutrition rather than in the universal introduction of treatment for severe acute malnutrition. Visit the IYCN website to learn more.

PATH highlights integrated approaches to diarrheal disease

On August 14, PATH will participate in a panel on “Diarrhoea Prevention and Surveillance.” PATH will present on the Enhanced Diarrheal Disease Control Initiative and collaborative efforts to control diarrhea and its leading cause of childhood death, rotavirus. Visit the IYCN website to learn more.

PATH calls for action to stop diarrheal disease

Also at the conference, PATH will feature its Call to Action in a panel discussion on vaccines and integrated approaches to address diarrheal disease. On August 13, a forum of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in Blantyre will feature the Call to Action as well, while bringing local NGOs together to discuss how to increase momentum for infant feeding, water and sanitation, and treatment efforts that can defeat diarrheal disease. Visit PATH’s Resources for Diarrheal Disease Control website to learn more.  


1 The Lancet’s Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition. Available at: Accessed February 23, 2009.