University of Alberta’s Doctoral Student Shela Hirani travels to Chitral, Pakistan to Explore Breastfeeding Practices of Mothers Affected by Disaster and Displacement
Born and raised in Karachi, Pakistan, Ms. Shela Hirani is an AKF-ISP scholar, Vanier Scholar (holder of Government of Canada’s most prestigious award), Killam Laureate at the University of Alberta and recipient of various international awards recognizing her academic excellence, research outputs, and community services. She is an internationally certified lactation consultant who is studying PhD in Nursing from the University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.
Her passion to promote, protect and support breastfeeding practices of nursing mothers affected by natural disasters takes her to the northern region of Pakistan. She travelled to Chitral, Pakistan where thousands of families affected by glacial lake outburst flooding and subsequent earthquake of 2015 are facing recurrent natural disasters and residing in the wide range of temporary settlements, including shelters and tents. With the commendable support of the Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Ms. Hirani accessed disaster affected families living in relief camps and undertook her fieldwork in villages including Shali, Bombarate (Kalash valley), Beshqair and Zhitoor (Garam Chashma valley) of Chitral.
“Supporting and protecting breastfeeding practices of women is an essential intervention to reduce the number of child deaths and illnesses during emergency response.”
Ms. Hirani’s doctoral study aims at gaining insight into the wide range of maternal, sociocultural, economical and geopolitical factors that directly and indirectly affect the breastfeeding practices of nursing mothers residing in the disaster relief camps.
As disaster relief camps are one of the most vulnerable settings where nursing mothers are at the risk of discontinuing their breastfeeding practices, Ms. Hirani anticipate that the findings of her study will help relief workers and health care professionals to develop context specific supportive interventions that can improve breastfeeding practices in relief camps and decrease deaths of young children during disaster and displacement. It will further develop knowledge related to disaster management, guide future research and facilitate mobilization of knowledge while caring for the nursing mothers and young children affected by disaster and displacement.
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