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SCF Statement to the WHA on Infant Feeding

On behalf of Save the Children Fund (UK), Lola Gostelow addressed the Assembly on the subject of Infant and Young Child Feeding. Below is a summarised report of her statement.

Commendable progress has been made since 1981 in the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which aims to protect infant health from the inappropriate promotion of breastmilk substitutes. New research however reveals that there is still little room for complacency.

The Interagency Group on Breastfeeding Monitoring recently commissioned a rapid assessment of Code violation in four countries (Bangladesh, Poland, the Republic of South Africa, and Thailand). The findings presented in the report 'Cracking the Code', indicated that 16 years on from the Code's adoption, its provisions are still being systematically violated by the baby food industry. Regrettably, the International Association of Infant Food Manufacturers reacted sceptically to the report.

In view of these research findings, and in line with their advocacy role in promoting the Code's provisions, SCF appealed for the following:

- The establishment of independent monitoring systems and controls
- Mechanisms for supporting and endorsing specific monitoring protocols
- All party recognition (including industry) of the Code's provisions as a minimum requirement for all member states

Such initiatives, SCF believe, would help ensure that progress to date in implementing the Code is not undermined, delayed or halted by commercial activity.

The growing issue of HIV transmission through breastmilk was also highlighted within the context of protecting children's rights. Key strategies for preventing transmission through breastfeeding, and more importantly from the mother, in the first instance must therefore be further developed. The assembly was asked for increased support and resources in this area.

Ms Gostelow finally expressed SCF's concerns about the appropriateness of the recent HIV and Infant Feeding guidelines with respect to poorly resourced developing countries where 90% of HIV infection occurs. The organisation has identified an urgent need for independent research into interventions that are accessible and affordable by the poorest, appropriate to the countries concerned, and sustainable in the long term. The terms of reference should include the feasibility of the proposed policy and practice measures in terms of cost, logistics, human rights, child survival and respect of the International Code.

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Reference this page

Lola Gostelow (1998). SCF Statement to the WHA on Infant Feeding. Field Exchange 4, June 1998. p17. www.ennonline.net/fex/4/scf

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