IBFAN Pakistan supports the Ministry of Health’s Call to Action to Ensure Safer Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies.
Click HERE for the Pakistan Ministry of Health IYCF E-Statement
Following Pakistan’s unprecedented Monsoon flooding, IBFAN Pakistan is urging solidarity in supporting the call from Pakistan’s Ministry of Health for appropriate IYCF-E infant and young child feeding in emergencies. In order to avoid unnecessary disease outbreaks and deaths of children, the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding are critical. The agencies are warning that donations of unnecessary ultra-processed products, including formula, should not be distributed to vulnerable communities.
During emergencies, disease and death rates among children under five are higher than for any other age group. The younger the infant, the higher the risk of death. Babies are at great risk of water-related diseases, with the diarrheal disease the second biggest killer of under-fives. The mortality risk is high due to poor sanitation, high rates of malnutrition, and disease outbreaks. Inappropriate infant formula donations exacerbate these problems. Pre-floods Pakistan already had high malnutrition rates with four out of 10 children under five stunted and 17.7% suffering from wasting. (1) Donations of baby feeding products can undermine efforts to protect breastfeeding – a practice that is resilient and provides food, care, immune support, and protection from the worst of emergency conditions. Indeed breastfeeding prevents malnutrition in ALL its forms (2) and inappropriate donations risk exacerbating the malnutrition crisis further.
Aside from its crucial role in child survival, breastfeeding is the most environmentally friendly way to feed an infant that contributes to local food and water security. It is a renewable, sustainable food system that creates no waste or pollution and, unlike artificial feeding, does not add to the environmental burden that is exacerbating the climate crisis.
Donations of infant formula and other powdered milk products during emergencies carry many risks. They are often in violation of Pakistan’s Breastfeeding Protection Laws (3), the Global IYCF Strategy (4), and the IFE Operational Guidance for Emergency Relief Staff (5). Feeding bottles and teats are tough to clean and can increase the risk of infection.
A commitment by ALL emergency responders is needed to meet this ongoing humanitarian crisis and prevent disease outbreaks and child deaths. Any inappropriate donations, especially from food companies, should be reported to the Ministry of Health, UNICEF, WHO, and IBFAN.
……for more on infant feeding in emergencies and references CLICK HERE