Thursday, March 1, 2012
Governments to Improve Exclusive Breastfeeding and Enforce the International Code
By Ina Verzivolli, GIFA Geneva, Switzerland
The 59th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) took place from 16 January to 3 February 2012 in Geneva. The Committee reviewed the progress of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 6 countries: Azerbaijan, Cook Islands, Madagascar, Myanmar, Thailand and Togo.
IBFAN presented alternative reports on the situation of infant and young child feeding, for 5 of the countries under review. The report of Madagascar was prepared in coordination with the regional group of IBFAN Africa. The report of Madagascar and Thailand was prepared in coordination with the regional and local IBFAN groups. The reports on Azerbaijan, Cook Islands and Myanmar were written by the Geneva Infant Feeding Association (IBFAN-GIFA). There was no alternative report in the case of Togo.
In its concluding observations, the CRC Committee made observations/recommendations on infant and child feeding in all cases and specifically to breastfeeding to 4 out of the 6 countries.
The rates of exclusive breastfeeding in the group of countries under review are particularly low, e.g. 5% in Thailand, 12 % in Azerbaijan and 15% in Myanmar. Therefore, the CRC Committee stressed, in particular, the necessity for the governments to take all possible efforts to improve exclusive breastfeeding in their countries. Governments were recommended to raise awareness among the public and educate the communities and mothers in particular about the importance of breastfeeding and the risks of artificial feeding. The Committee raised concerns over the very low rates of initiation to breastfeeding in some countries like Azerbaijan and Thailand, and urged these to take the necessary efforts to change this situation.
Almost all governments went home with a recommendation to adopt or strengthen their regulation of the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Azerbaijan was urged to establish “monitoring and reporting mechanisms” with regards to their law which implements the International Code, and was advised to disseminate information widely about these measures. The government of Madagascar was given a recommendation to effectively enforce its National Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and establish monitoring systems to detect cases of violations. Thailand was urged to adopt legal regulation for the marketing activities of breastmilk substitutes in accordance with the International Code and to ensure effective monitoring and compliance.
The Committee paid attention also to the issue of obesity and the marketing of junk, sugary and fatty foods to children. In the case of the Cook Islands, the Committee expressed concern for the increasing obesity rates and recommended the government to adopt regulation to restrict and monitor the marketing of these types of foods.
The Committee considers important the role of the health systems in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. It urged countries to make their hospitals baby-friendly, to support the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and to sensitize and train of health workers that are involved in maternity work.
On issues related to child nutrition more generally, the Committee expressed its concern with regards to child malnutrition in all countries under review. It focused on the need to improve equal access to health care services and decrease inequalities, increase budget allocations to the health sector, strengthen the primary health care system, improve maternal health care services, etc. These recommendations are an obligation for the governments and a powerful tool for civil society to hold them to account.