The emirate of Sharjah, through the Sharjah Baby-Friendly Emirate Campaign, SBFC, supervised by the Sharjah Baby-Friendly Office, SBFO, has made milestone achievements in fostering the welfare of new-born babies and enabling working mothers to maintain a healthy balance between work and family.
These milestones align with the UAE’s developmental and cultural vision of setting a regional and international model for providing a healthy and conducive environment to ensure the sound upbringing of future generations.
Under the theme "A True Beginning for a Better Future," the campaign was launched in February 2011 in line with an Emiri Decree issued by H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, and with the directives of H.H. Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs, and wife of the Ruler of Sharjah.
Targeting children up to the age of two, SBFC has been pioneering in introducing the concept of a baby-friendly city, leading to Sharjah’s recognition as the world’s first baby-friendly city by the World Health Organisation, WHO, and UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, in December 2015, after adopting four initiatives that were implemented simultaneously for the first time in the world.
The four initiatives Sharjah adopted included the Baby-Friendly Health Facility, which is based on the International Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, launched by WHO and UNICEF in 1991. Sharjah then extended this initiative to include other places and institutions, including Mother-Friendly Workplaces, Breastfeeding-Friendly Nurseries, and Mother-Baby Friendly Public Places three community initiatives that targeted establishments and community members to encourage breastfeeding.
Drawing on the immense efforts by the campaign to strengthen Sharjah’s stature as a baby-friendly emirate, the Ruler of Sharjah ordered the official establishment of the SBFO in 2016 to boost efforts and expand the campaign’s scope to include children of all age groups. This also included developing the scope of the office, granting it greater powers and providing a platform for co-operation between government and private organisations concerned with children in the UAE and beyond.
SBFC also continued its efforts to protect the rights of children and ensure their well-being and safety by conducting a series of educational workshops, meetings and inspection visits to promote awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.
Since its inception, SBFO made numerous achievements that contributed to solidifying Sharjah’s reputation and image as a baby-friendly emirate. The office celebrated World Breastfeeding Week in Sharjah in August 2017 and carried out 117 meetings and field visits to health facilities, along with 71 meetings and site visits to public places in 2016 and 2017.
As a result, many official entities, health facilities and public places were recognised as "Baby-Friendly" in 2016 and 2017 after they succeeded in applying environmental and health standards. Among these, Al Dhaid Healthcare Centre has been accredited as a baby-friendly health facility, while five public places Al Qasba, Al Majaz Waterfront, Al Noor Island, Mleiha Archeology Centre and the Heart of Sharjah were recognised as "Mother and Baby-Friendly Public Places."
With continued achievements by SBFO, four establishments renewed their accreditations as Mother-Friendly Workplaces, including the Sharjah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sharjah Directorate of Human Resources, Sharjah Police and Sharjah Ladies Club. In addition, Hadanaty, "My Nursery," at Sharjah Media Corporation was accredited as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Nursery, while Basateen Pre-School Centre at Sharjah Ladies Club renewed its accreditation as a Breastfeeding-Friendly Nursery.
SBFO also organised a 20-hour breastfeeding course that targeted 71 medical professionals in Sharjah’s healthcare centres, nurses at the Sharjah Education Council and medical staff at Al Qasimi and Khorfakkan hospitals.