Breastfeeding is a public health issue… Says Prof. Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food
By James Achanyi-Fontem, firstname.lastname@example.org
Olivier de Schutter, United Nation special Rapporteur for right to food an made recommendations to governments as to how to improve food security & promote the vital food at all levels, during the World Breastfeeding Conference in Delhi, India from the 6th – 9th December, 2012.
Though not present in Delhi, he sent a message from New York and lauded the work of the International Baby Food Action Network Asia that was instrumental in organizing the event. He called on governments to copy the Vietnam good example, where on the 18th June 2012, the National Assembly approved the extension of paid maternity leave from 4 months to 6 months.
On 24th June, it voted to ban the advertising of Breast Milk Substitutes for infants from 6 to 24 months, aligning the country more closely with the 1981 International Code on Breastmilk Substitutes on the marketing of breastmilk substitute and subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions.
Prof. Olivier De Schutter added that, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and continued breastfeeding until the second birthday of the child, is very important for governments to move beyond promotional campaigns and education. Promotional Campaigns and education are extremely important, that they are necessary and useful. Education about nutrition and the benefits of breastfeeding in schools should be supported, while the media should be sending the right messages to communities.
He regretted that there is relatively a low number of countries that are serious about the enforcing the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitute. In his words, the count made by World Health Organization in December 2011, shows that out of a total of 165 states 103 states had some regulatory measure in place, 37 States relied only on the voluntary commitments of the infant formula manufacturers and 25 States had taken no action. More worrying is the fact that out of the 103 States which adopted legislative instruments in order to implement the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitute, only a bit less than 50% of the countries have provisions on enforcement and only 37 States has the World Health Organization considered serious enforcement of these provisions.
With this, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food said, governments should ensure that the mothers are given the right message and that the efforts of government to promote breastfeeding are not nullified and made fruitless by the selling of infant formula by the manufacturers.
The International Code of 1981 is absolutely vital but it is not enough and governments must also ensure that the employers facilitate breastfeeding, by having childcare facilities in the work place. Maternity leaves allow women not to have to choose between remaining in employment and providing adequate breastfeeding to the child, he emphasised. This should also be true for public work programmes because the important part of social protection measures is often forgotten in developing countries.
Another phase for action for supporting breastfeeding is by strengthening women’s rights and women’s education. There was a very impressive study published in 2000 by Smith & Haddad showing that based on a cross country study, covering 25 years from 1970 to 1995 Smith & Haddad showed that 43% of the reduction of hunger in developing countries during those 25 years were attributable to improved women’s education.
This is almost as much as the increase in food availability which stands at 26% and the improvements in health services at 19% together. Infact if we 12% of the improvements to the reduction of hunger and malnutrition during this period attributable to better life expectations for women, the conclusion is that 55% of the gains against hunger, malnutrition during this period were attributable to women’s education or a longer life expectancy for women.
This leads us to recognize the importance of adequate care of the children during the first few years of life in order to have adequate nutritional and health outcomes. UNICEF in particular has proven and demonstrated that food intake alone would not ensure adequate health & nutritional outcomes if not combined with adequate care, if not combined with adequate access to water, sanitation services and health services, All these together ensures that young children develop well physically and mentally and that the mortality of the children under five is reduced.
Better education for girls and women is absolutely vital to achieve this. Today, better education for women and girls means more economic opportunities and more chances of employment outside the
The income effects are such that the child ultimately benefits & women that are more economically active and more economically independent can make better use of their time and make the right choices, for example, to visit health facilities and to have the child adequately taken care of.
To promote breastfeeding better and more effectively, we must build on breastfeeding as a human right both for the women and for the infant. This imposes certain obligations on governments particularly to adapt the world of employment to the need to support breastfeeding and to seriously implement the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
In support of the UN vision, the President of India, His Excellency, Shri Pranah Mukherjee send a congratulatory message to the organizers of the World Breastfeeding Conference. Considering that New delhi was honoured as host, he extended wishes of success during the deliberations.
Mrs. Sheila Dikshit, the Chirf Minister of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, on her part said, that the Global Breastfeeding Initiative for Child Survival, GBIGS, organizing the World Breastfeeding Conference, WBC, under the theme “Babies need mom-made, Not man-made” was very relevant, especially as over 1.000 delegates from all regions of the world were in Delhi to contribute and exchange their experiences.
Chief Minister of Gujrat, Narendra Modi. On his part said, while India is fighting malnutrition, the age=old tradition of breastfeeding is a blessing in disguise. Breastfeeding the very natural source of nutrition for nw born provides anti-bodies which help to establish the baby’s immune system. It also provides digestive nutrients essential for healthy growth.
Some 800 experts from 84 countries arrived India to support the initiative of the International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, WABA. It was an opportunity to pledge support for every breastfeeding mother in the world.
Minister Omar Abdullah, Minister of Jammu and Kashmir said, the nature of the theme is welcome and timely. He observed that the nature of the family is changing and the change is impacting the relationship between the mother and the child with breastfeeding as an important structural element. He aaded that feeding the baby through any other method different from the breast is artificial. Artificial feeding impacts on the baby negatively health-wise, physically and psychologically.
Minister Oomen Chandy of Kerala, added his voice by saying that the dawn of modern day health care remedies and life style has influenced artificial feeding to suppress breastfeeding. With this situation, we have to highlight the nutritious and healthy nature of mother’s milk. Breastmilk substitutes trigger impairment in children and we should fight against it. The world breastfeeding conference aimed at popularizing the significance of infant feeding globally.
H.E. Manohar Parrikar of Goa called on participants to take up issues related to policy gaps if change has to be achieved in the struggle for child survival and especially to support women to improve on child health and nutrition. India has a ministry for health and family welfare and another ministry for women and child development.
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James Achanyi-Fontem, is a Senior Health Journalist and Communication Consultant. He worked as a health journalist and broadcaster for 30 years with Radio Cameroon and later Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV before retiring in 2005 to engage fully with Cameroon Link (Human Assistance Programme). Cameroon Link is a registered charity, not-for-profit organisation involved in the promotion of community health, humanitarian assistance, promotion of women and child rights through involvement of communities in Cameroon for mother and child health care. Cameroon Link is a partner to Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Farm Radio International (FRI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN Africa), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). As the intermediary of Commonwealth of Learning (COL), Cameroon Link is engaged to implement a Cameroon Rural Radio story design Programming through an investigative research, which aims to discover through interviewing beneficiaries of health programmes on their interests, documenting and disseminating new ideas about how radio stations produce and air Healthy Communities Radio Programs in Cameroon.