Addressing the prevalence of diarrhea among young children in Egypt, Prime Minister Hisham Kandil explained what he believes to be the cause of the ongoing epidemic: women's "unclean" breasts.
In the speech, broadcast on Egyptian TV channel Nile Culture, Kandil recalled what he saw during a visit to a rural part of the nation where clean water is scarce. According to a Huffington Post translation of the original video clip (below), the prime minister said he has seen children get diarrhea because mothers are too ignorant to know to clean their breasts before breastfeeding their infants.
During his remarks, several of the meeting's female attendees seemed uncomfortable, Al Arabiya's English website notes.
The prime minister's statement may seem odd, however his credentials suggest his claim may not be entirely unfounded. After all, Kandil received his doctorate degree in biological and agricultural engineering with a minor in water resources and worked at Egypt's National Water Research Center (NWRC) for more than a decade.
Kandil eventually rose to the position of minister of water resources in 2011. In his short time in the chief post -- before he was appointed prime minister by Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in July -- Kandil took part in an observer mission involving water issues on the Nile River.
Although scientific research has not made the same connection between unclean breasts and diarrhea, breastfeeding has actually been demonstrated to significantly reduce the prevalence of infantile diarrhea.
According to a 2012 United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) study, 29 percent of deaths of children younger than 5 are caused by diarrhea and pneumonia, which often occur in conjunction. The research also found that breastfeeding is critical in the first several months of a newborn's life, and infants who are not breastfed are more at-risk of dying from such illnesses.
The UNICEF report mirrors past research on exclusive breastfeeding and the risk of diarrhea, such as a2003 study in India and a 2001 study in Bangladesh. That's why the World Health Organization recommends women exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of an infant's life to prevent such diseases from developing.
While research indicates exclusive breastfeeding can prevent diarrhea, it does not back up Kandil's claim about the connection to feminine hygiene.
Watch the untranslated video below, or click over to Al Arabiya to listen to Kandil's statement with an English voice-over.