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Kenyan firms urged to be mother friendly

NARIOBI, Kenya, Sept 8 – The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the government and UNICEF on Wednesday called on all employers to support new mothers by facilitating them to exclusively breastfeed their babies.

KEPSA Chief Executive Officer Carole Kariuki asked companies to comply with the three months maternity leave provision and also review work schedules for new mothers.

“We are urging our members to review work place polices and  flex time schedules including short breaks for mothers to express breast milk and provide a designated clean private area for new mothers,” she said.

Ms Kariuki said supporting nursing mothers in the workplace will mean fewer sick days for them, lower health care costs and also cutting down on costs for recruitment of new staff and training.

She also said the move would reduce staff turnover will and boost morale of female staff ‘which with time develops a positive image of a family friendly employer.’

General Motors Chief Executive Officer Bill Lay said it was important for companies to also think about compassion alongside making profits.

He asked the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation to investigate companies to check if they were honouring the maternity laws and caring for pregnant and nursing mothers.

Though progress has been made to cater for mothers, the Ministry felt that more provisions were required to compel companies to adhere to the social responsibility of providing mother friendly services.

Director of Administration in the Ministry, Bruce Madete directed companies that were not providing maternity and paternity leave to their employees to immediately adhere to the provision.

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UNICEF Representative Dr Olivia Yambi said about 11,000 young lives would be saved if women were supported to breastfeed their children exclusively.

According to the 2009 Kenya Demographic Health Survey, about 35 percent of Kenyan children are stunted, 16 percent are underweight and seven percent are wasted, a strong indication that Kenya is still far from achieving the millennium development goal of reducing child mortality.

The survey further indicated that 42 percent of all newborns do not receive breast milk within the first hour of birth and 19 percent of them are not fed appropriately with both breast milk and other foods.

The national public health recommends that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve growth, health and development, then introduce other foods but continue with breastfeeding for two years.

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