NAT 191018 Sharjah wins award-1571406003290
Sharjah wins Unicef Child Friendly City Award Image Credit: Supplied

Sharjah: The Sharjah Baby Friendly Project won the inaugural UNICEF Child Friendly Cities Initiative (CFCI) Inspire Award in the category of Child Friendly Social Services at the first Global Child Friendly Cities Summit in Germany on Thursday.

The SBF Project was launched in 2011 following an Emiri decree by His Highness Dr Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. It was headed by Shaikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Baby Friendly Office (SBFO).

Shaikh Salem bin Abdul Rahman Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Ruler’s Office, received the award from Sebastian Lyon, Executive Director, UNICEF France, on behalf of the SBF Project.

Previously known the Baby-Friendly Emirate Campaign, the SBF Project was launched under the theme ‘A Right Beginning for a Better Future’, with a view to establishing a healthy life for children. This was sought to be done by creating a supportive environment for nursing mothers in the emirate’s public places to foster a culture of breastfeeding due to its enormous health benefits for both mother and baby.

The project has succeeded in introducing the concept of ‘child-friendly city’ after the fruitful implementation of four initiatives: Baby-Friendly Health Facilities, Mother-Friendly Workplaces, Mother and Baby-Friendly Public Places, and Breastfeeding-Friendly Nurseries.

The four initiatives were implemented simultaneously across the emirate, the first time ever globally, in compliance with the International Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) standards for being ranked as baby-friendly. The campaign culminated with Sharjah being named the world’s first Baby-Friendly City in 2015 by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF.

Dr. Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SBFO said Sharjah deserved the honour for succeeding in raising breastfeeding rates to 57 per cent, exceeding WHO’s global target of 50 percent by 2025. Working mothers in Sharjah enjoy a three-month paid maternity leave along with their 30-day annual leave. Since the inception of the SBF project, the emirate has accredited 19 government and private health facilities as Baby-Friendly, 22 public places as Mother-Baby Friendly, 30 nurseries as Breastfeeding-Friendly, and 84 workplaces as Mother-Friendly.

“Through its participation in the first edition of the Global Child Friendly Cities Summit, the SBFO showcased the emirate’s experience and tireless efforts to improve children’s and young people’s futures and preserve their rights. It also highlighted Sharjah’s status as the first Arab child friendly city,” said Dr. Al Ghazal.

“Sharjah sets an inspiring model for other Arab cities to adopt its approaches and policies that seek to boost children’s position and define their rights, as well as to strengthen relations with relevant international bodies and share with them experiences and expertise in the field.”