Breastfeeding babies within one hour of birth can prevent a significant number of neonatal deaths in developing countries, according to UNICEF, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, which estimates that immediate breastfeeding can prevent 1.3 million infant deaths annually.

Early breastfeeding provides critical nutrients, protects infants against deadly diseases and fosters growth and development. In Vietnam, breastfeeding within the first hour of birth would reduce neonatal deaths in that country by an estimated 22 percent, the Viet Nam News reported Aug. 7. A recent study shows only 12 percent of Vietnamese infants are breastfed exclusively in the first six months of life and only one-quarter are breastfed in the first hour after birth.

Meanwhile, the London-based National Childbirth Trust, Save the Children and UNICEF are asking the British government to stop formula milk promotion in favor of allowing mothers to receive unbiased information about breastfeeding, free from commercial pressures. A Save the Children report released in May found that manufacturers promoting formula spends 10 times the amount the British government spends promoting breastfeeding. The coalition also says breastfeeding would reduce national health care costs as artificial milk makes infants more prone to infections and other health problems.

More News to Cheer This Week:

  • Ten thousand women rallied in Kenya calling on the government to reserve 50 seats for women in parliament before the December election, the BBC reported Aug. 8. A campaign to gather 1 million signatures in support of the measure was launched, and a recent poll found that 51 percent of Kenyans say they are ready to elect a woman as their president.
  • For the first time in eight years, the number of pregnant women with HIV-AIDS in South Africa has dropped, Reuters reported Aug. 2. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the health minister of the country, said “this may be a beginning of a decline in the HIV prevalence rates.” The majority of the 1,500 daily new infections are in women under 20.
  • More Liberian women are learning to preserve rape evidence, resulting in the first convicted rapists to receive maximum punishment, the Boston Herald reported Aug. 6. A radio and billboard campaign instructs women to file police reports and seek hospital care immediately, as well as to save blood-stained clothes and other items to identify rapists. Under a 2005 law, people accused of gang rape or raping a child cannot post bail and can receive life sentences; only five have been convicted. President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has sought to erase the stigma associated with sexual assault in her country, where 85 percent of the victims are under 18.
  • The national women’s soccer team of Afghanistan will join 15 Pakistani teams in the Pakistan women’s championship in Islamabad Aug. 16-24, the Pakistan Daily Times reported Aug. 7. It will be the first time the women’s team plays abroad. The team will be under a male head coach and two female coaches and will comprise 20 players. The athletes also wear long trousers and baseball caps covering their hair.

  • Sudan has released 847 non-Muslim women and 158 children from the South accused of selling alcohol in Khartoum, an illegal act under the nation’s Sharia law, Reuters reported Aug. 5. Last year 90 percent of women who were jailed were accused of selling alcohol. Sudan is working to reduce the impact of Sharia for southerners living in the capital under a 2005 peace accord.


Cassandra M. Hernandez, a female airman at the Pope Air Force Base near Fayetteville, N.C., faces court-martial after refusing to testify in her own rape trial, the Washington Post reported Aug. 8. Hernandez accused three male airmen of raping her in May, but then refused to testify because she said she felt pressured by the Air Force judicial process and intimidated by a defense attorney, who interviewed her without a victim’s advocate present.

The three accused men received administrative punishments and criminal charges were dropped against them. The Air Force has given the men immunity to testify against Hernandez, who has now been charged with an indecent act and for neglect of duty for drinking alcohol while underage.

Following publicity about the case, the Air Force released a statement that said the investigation revealed inconsistencies in Hernandez’s testimony, the Associated Press reported Aug. 9, an assertion that her attorney quickly denied.

More News to Jeer This Week:

  • GreenStone Media, the Seattle-based commercial radio network targeted to female listeners, has announced that it will discontinue its programming Aug. 17 unless it finds new sources of revenue, Mediaweek reported Aug. 6. Although the company has grown from 15,000 to 60,000 listeners since it was founded in September 2006 with the support of Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and other celebrities, GreenStone was carried by only eight affiliates this year and did not expect to return a profit until 2008.
  • Male officers have joined India’s all-women police station in Chandigarh, the Times of India reported Aug. 5. It operated as the only female police unit in the city for three years, but the women, mostly widows of policemen, were unable to do night patrols due to safety concerns or child care responsibilities and additional male police were frequently requested.
  • A British Columbia immigrants’ advocacy group has alleged that ultrasound clinics are using newspaper ads to urge Indo-Canadians to abort female fetuses, the Hindustan Times reported Aug. 7. The ads appeared in the Ajit Weekly and the Hamdard Weekly, two Punjabi-language newspapers published in the United States and distributed in Canada. Koala Labs, one of the advertisers, says it does not know how couples are using the ultrasound data.
  • Two Nepalese female soldiers were fired because army officials thought they were lesbians, Reuters reported Aug. 7. The women were seen in bed with each other, though they say they were reading a book. Homosexuality is banned in Nepal under a vague law that outlaws “unnatural” sex.

  • Hundreds of homeless Australian women are not receiving accommodations due to a shortage of beds in Sydney, the Age newspaper reported Aug. 5. A Woman’s Place, a 23-bed crisis center, for example, helped 600 women in the past year but had to turn away 1,000 others. Single women without partners or children are less likely to receive help.
  • A Missouri judge blocked the implementation of a new law allowing midwives to deliver babies in homes, the Kansas City Star reported Aug. 8. The law was part of a health insurance bill, which the judge ruled as a violation of the state constitution because it addresses multiple subjects. The Missouri State Medical Association had opposed the law, citing safety and liability concerns.


Texas is promoting marriage education as part of a $7.5 million effort this year to reduce divorce rates, joining 27 other states with similar initiatives in a nationwide effort to promote matrimony, Stateline.org reported Aug. 7. Couples who attend the optional marriage course may opt out on the $60 marriage license fee beginning Sept. 1, 2008, but some couples have decided not to get married as a result of the classes. The Bush administration awarded five-year federal grants totaling $1.5 billion to 26 states with premarital counseling.

Jacqueline Lee is a Los Angeles-based reporter is an intern with Women’s eNews and Nouhad Moawad is managing editor of Arabic Women’s eNews.

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For more information:

UNICEF, The Baby-Friendly Initiative:

GreenStone Media:

“Soldier’s Harassment Claim Leads to Court Martial”:

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