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Update on IYCF progress in Balochistan, Pakistan

Muhammad Sheraz and Dr. Ali Nasir Bugti

Muhammad Sheraz is the Nutrition Information Management Officer for the Department of Health within the Government of Balochistan.

Dr. Ali Nasir Bugti is the Provincial Coordinator for Nutrition for the Department of Health within the Government of Balochistan.

Balochistan has one of the highest levels of undernutrition in Pakistan and its nutrition crisis reflects the accumulation of poor feeding practices, low rates of exclusive breastfeeding and other factors such as poor health, food insecurity and poverty. According to the National Nutrition Survey IYCF indicators in Balochistan are generally poor, exclusive breastfeeding (0-6 Months) is 27%, age appropriate breastfeeding (0-23 Months) is 54% and minimum acceptable dietary diversity (6-23 Months) is only 2.1%. Early initiation of breastfeeding is better at 64%.

The Government’s Nutrition Cell in Balochistan has been working vigorously with support from different nutrition development partners to address the poor IYCF indicators. In 2013, the Nutrition Cell, in collaboration with UNICEF & HELP (Health, Education & Literacy program a national NGO), implemented two different projects aimed at lobbying policy makers for strengthened IYCF trainings and approval and effective implementation of the “Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes” at the provincial level.

Chief Minister Balochistan presenting the “Balochistan Protection of Breast Feeding & Nutrition for Infants/Young Children Bill” in provincial assembly for approvalThese efforts have paid off as, in January 2014, the Balochistan Assembly passed the ‘Balochistan Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Act-2013’. This act makes illegal the propagation of any material by a manufacturer or distributor that encourages bottlefeeding or discourages breastfeeding, punishable with imprisonment for up to two years and a fine ranging from USD 500 to USD 5000. The act forbids the presentation of a gift or any other benefit to a health worker or medical practitioner liable to the same penalties. The act also prohibits the assertion that any designated product is a substitute, equivalent or superior to mother’s milk by any person. At the same time, it makes it obligatory for manufacturers of a designated product to publish on its container a conspicuous notice in bold characters that “Mother’s milk is best for your baby and helps in preventing diarrhoea and other illness.”

The Government of Balochistan will now identify an infant feeding board consisting of members from Provincial Assembly, Health Department and civil society, including renowned pediatricians and gynecologists. The new board will be responsible for ensuring the implementation of the rules and regulations of the passed bill. With proper support and implementation of this law, there is great hope for an improvement of IYCF practices in Balochistan.

For more information, please contact Muhammad Sheraz: Mohammad.sheraz@live.com

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Muhammad Sheraz and Dr. Ali Nasir Bugti (2014). Update on IYCF progress in Balochistan, Pakistan. Nutrition Exchange 4, July 2014. p22. www.ennonline.net/nex/4/en/update

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