Voices of 45000 People Reach World Health Assembly with a Call to Save Newborn Lives
Press release from the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN 23 May 2009
(Click here for Baby Milk Action's press release on demonstrations and interventions at the Nestlé shareholder meeting and elsewhere prior to the Assembly)
This week, IBFAN, the International Baby Food Action Network, made a clear call when it launched its ‘One Million Campaign: Support Women to Breastfeed’ (www.onemillioncampaign.org) at World Health Assembly. The IBFAN team submitted a petition to the President of World Health Assembly, Mr. NS de Silva, signed by more than 45000 people from 161 countries.
Mr. de Silva said as he received the petition: “…In Sri Lanka we have very specific indicators……with our campaign for promoting (exclusive)breastfeeding, it has come to 78% , we are happy about it, and we want the Asia region, and whole world should promote this concept !”
The petition demands concrete support systems for breastfeeding women to increase the coverage of early and exclusive breastfeeding. This would help save more than one million newborn and infant lives annually, as well improve the health of their mothers. Needless to say, it will also set a path for healthy adult life.
Dr. Arun Gupta, the regional coordinator of IBFAN Asia, went on to present the demands of the petition to the World Health Assembly, urging the Assembly to adopt a resolution in 2010 to deal with 4 key issues. First, to prepare a specific plan of action on infant feeding which is budgeted and coordinated in the same way as action plans for immunisation. Second, to ensure the end of promotion of baby milks and foods intended for children under 2 years in a time-bound manner, that is by 2015. Third, to end partnerships in the area of infant and young child feeding and nutrition with commercial sector corporations that present conflicts of interests. And fourth, to create support and maternity entitlements for women both in the formal and informal sectors, so that mothers and babies can stay close to each other for six months at least.
Today, the World Health Organisation recognised the importance for infants to be exclusively breastfed: at the launch of the World Health Statistics Report 2009, for the first time, this key indicator was included in the statistics. While including an indicator on exclusive breastfeeding is good step forward, says Alison Linnecar, of IBFAN, "Early and exclusive breastfeeding should be monitored in the process of tracking progress of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 goal of child survival, both nationally and globally".
The report reveals that about only 48 million of 135 million babies born are able to benefit from exclusive breastfeeding, due to reasons such as aggressive promotion of baby milks and baby foods and lack of supportive health systems.
Many countries have still to enact national legislation to end this promotion in compliance with the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes that was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Says Annelies Allain of IBFAN “Action must be accelerated on this crucial intervention”.
According to Dr Gupta, "There is an increasing trend towards mobilising public private partnerships in these areas, which is not healthy. These are a way for corporations to increase their profits….It is business for corporations meeting their basic objectives. Commercial interference on parents’ infant feeding decisions should end."
Arun Gupta, IBFAN Asia