This summer, while health advocates across the globe celebrated World Breastfeeding Week and the U.S. celebrated National Breastfeeding Month, Egypt commemorated the launch of their initiative “1,000 Golden Days for the Development of the Egyptian Family.” This work is situated under the umbrella project 100-Million Healthy Lives Presidential Initiative.
In collaboration with Egyptian Members Association (EMA) of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), the comprehensive 1,000 Golden Days project provides free-of- charge access to competent midwifery care, “develop[s] family and parental awareness” and employs medical and psychological examinations for the parent and child within the first 1,000 days (spanning from conception through the second year).
The initiative ensures the “right of the child to be raised in a sound family environment and the right of the mother [and father] to enjoy a healthy life,” as stated by Dr. Khaled Abdul Ghaffar, Minister of Health and Population, during a commemoration speech over the summer.
Healthy Children Project extols the achievements of their long-time partner Dr. Abla Al-Alfi and colleagues.
Dr. Abla explains that 85 percent of children’s physical, mental and psychological capabilities develop within the first 1,000 days; when proper development isn’t nurtured, the lasting health impacts and challenges often become insurmountable and irreversible.
In 2019, Egypt ranked 123rd of 182 countries on the Human Development Index. [ World Bank Group. Nutrition at a Glance: Egypt [Internet]. [cited 2019 Mar 21]. Available from: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/NUTRITION/Resources/281846-1271963823772/Egypt.pdf].
“Although Egypt has made significant progress in reducing infant and child mortality, the World Bank Group reports that Egypt was expected to lose US$1.3 billion to chronic disease by 2015, with more than US$800 million lost in GDP each year due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” as noted by Turner-Maffei and Cadwell.
Read more about the startling and unacceptable health outcomes in their 2019 coverage here.
Targeting these shortcomings, the 1,000 Golden Days initiative specifically aims to support healthy pregnancies including ideal conception spacing, decrease c-section rates, implement skin-to-skin in the first hours and establish exclusive breastfeeding and responsive feeding practices including cue-based feeding, support continued breastfeeding through six months, with the addition of adequate, timely, safe and appropriate complementary foods at six months, and continued breastfeeding through at least two years, as laid out here.
The experimental phase of the project began in July 2022 in three provinces. The first phase of the initiative will be carried out in ten provinces through June 2024, extending to December 2025 during the second phase, serving 17 governorates.