XL56: Dr. Shela Hirani: Breastfeeding in Disaster Relief Camps

US$ 25.00

Disaster relief camps are one of the most vulnerable settings where women are at risk of discontinuing their breastfeeding practices. Although challenges associated with continued breastfeeding during disasters and displacements are prevalent globally, they are particularly problematic in Pakistan. Pakistan is a low-middle income country where infant and child mortality rates are high. This country often faces disasters such as earthquakes and floods that exacerbate discontinuation of breastfeeding. This study aims at exploring the facilitators and barriers to breastfeeding practices of internally displaced mothers residing in the disaster relief camps of Pakistan.

Dr. Shela Hirani

Critical ethnography was employed as a study design to uncover the breastfeeding experiences of mothers in the disaster relief camps and situate their experiences within the intersections of maternal, sociocultural, economic, and geopolitical factors. The theoretical perspective that guided this study was a critical feminist theory combined with the critical realist ontology and constructivist epistemology. Data were collected using multiple methods, including field observation, document analysis, and in-depth interviews with 18 displaced mothers who were residing in disaster relief camps in northern Pakistan and were having young children aged 1 day to 36 months. Mothers were eligible to participate in the study regardless of their breastfeeding practices.

Three main themes were derived from the data, including “facilitators to breastfeeding”, “barriers to breastfeeding” and “recommendations”. Findings revealed a wide range of maternal (micro level), socio-cultural (meso level), economic (exo level), and geo-political (macro level) factors that are directly and indirectly affecting breastfeeding practices of displaced mothers residing in the disaster relief camps. Recommendations shared by the participants reflected their perspective on possible solutions to the encountered challenges surrounding breastfeeding practices of mothers residing in disaster relief camps.

Multi-layered, context-specific, and interdisciplinary interventions at the micro, meso, exo, and macro level are essential to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding practices of mothers residing in the disaster relief camps.

1 L CERPs / 1 Lactation Specific Hours
Access period:
One week
Lecture recorded:

Dr. Shela Hirani is an Associate Professor at the University of Regina, Faculty of Nursing, Canada. She is a neonatal and child health nursing professional, nurse-academic, nurse-researcher, and an International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. She is actively involved in work surrounding the improvement of health equity, health systems, programs, and policies that often negatively affects the health and well-being of marginalized and vulnerable groups of women and young children in Canada and Pakistan. Her professional goal is to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children and marginalized women through her research work, leadership, and community services.

Since 2003 to date, Dr. Hirani is actively involved in breastfeeding advocacy in diverse care settings and health promotion of the vulnerable population of women and young children. She has contributed to knowledge development in nursing surrounding “care of marginalized women during disasters”, “breastfeeding during humanitarian emergencies”, and “Mother and baby-friendly initiatives at mothers’ workplace settings”. She has established her program of research surrounding “breastfeeding advocacy among marginalized groups of mothers and young children who are refugees, immigrants, internally displaced, and homeless".

Dr. Hirani is hopeful that her research work will further develop knowledge related to disaster management, guide future research and facilitate mobilization of knowledge while caring for breastfeeding mothers and young children in the disaster relief camps of other low-middle income countries.