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Ad Hoc Group on infant feeding in emergencies

The international Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) called a meeting in Geneva on infant feeding in emergencies in October 1995. A report of the meeting 'Crucial Aspects of Infant Feeding in Emergencies' was published by IBFAN. The report documents current policies and guidelines on infant feeding in emergencies, lists WHO and UNICEF initiatives and has reprints of various key papers. One of the important issues at the meeting was how agencies and NGOs can protect, promote and support breastfeeding and at the same time meet the limited but real need for breast milk substitutes in relief/disaster situations without exposing the majority of babies and mothers to the unnecessary risks associated with bottle-feeding and the use of often unsuitable products.

A follow on meeting in September 1996 was organised by Baby Milk Action. Subsequent meetings to discuss infant feeding in emergencies were held at SCF in January and March 1997. These meetings were part of a wider consultative process being co-ordinated by IBFAN.

The participants of these meetings are a mix of health! nutrition personnel from NGOs working in relief and emergency situations; academics from research and training institutes with special interest in the topic; and individuals with professional interests in optimal feeding for infants.

The main purpose of the meetings is to promote a unified NGO approach in this area. Once there is common agreement a report will be published and disseminated more widely. Another aim of the meetings is to identify possible actions that agencies could undertake to promote better infant feeding practices during emergencies, e.g. awareness raising for the public; training for field staff. The meetings also ensure that NGOs are kept up to date with best practice as well as recent relevant documents and guidelines. At the same time non NGO participants are kept informed of the real problems being faced on the ground.

For further information on this approach contact Lola Nathaniel, Policy Unit, SCF(UK), 17 Grove Lane London SE5 8RD, UK.

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Ad Hoc Group on infant feeding in emergencies. Field Exchange 1, May 1997. p12. www.ennonline.net/fex/1/adhoc

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