A ‘young’ country on the move

Country Programme 2006-2010

The new UNICEF representative in Albania

Related information on the Convention on the Rights of the Child


Mr Palm's speech during the launching of the "Monitoring Report on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in Albania" on 11 March 2014

This looks like a meeting of experts. But it is about life and death of ordinary people. It is not even about some complicated issue. It is about something that is as simple as it gets. It is about how a mother would feed and look after her child.

There is a good correlation between how children do later life, including their psychosocial development, academic achievement or success, and whether or not they were breastfed as babies, and for how long. 

Many studies have shown that immediate start of breastfeeding reduces the risk of young children dying. We know that exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life saves lives. Breastfed children perform better in intelligence tests and have better development outcomes.

Optimal infant and young child feeding means breastfeeding, and late introduction of supplementary foods. It protects a child from both under-nutrition and over-nutrition and their consequences later in life.

It is shown that breastfeeding protects against obesity in a cost-effective way. If you want your daughter not to pay money for expensive slimming diets, breastfeed her as a baby. Breastfed infants have a lower risk of several chronic conditions later in life.

This is important in Albania which – nutritionally speaking – is in a transition from people having been generally hungry or stunted to becoming obese. In Albania, children of particularly vulnerable groups are even at risk of becoming stunted and obese at the same time.

Talking about stunting: We did a survey in 2010, and estimated that sub-optimal breastfeeding causes an economic loss to Albania of 4.8 million Dollar a year. Just under a third of child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition and 18 per cent to suboptimal Breastfeeding.

The breast milk-substitutes industry spends big money to persuade mothers to use formula. This seriously jeopardizes breastfeeding. Studies demonstrate how promotional activities change the decision of women to breastfeed their babies.

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to address this problem. Every few years global declarations and events emphasize the importance of promoting breastfeeding. We can pile more evidence on top of each, but the science is very clear and does not need to be discussed.

Today’s monitoring report recognizes that practices have improved in most maternities, such as rooming-in. I also read that one or two regions are still lagging behind. I frankly don’t know why the public and the Ministry of Health has to tolerate these old-fashioned practices.

The Albanian Law for marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes does not aim to stop marketing of these products. Instead, it aims to stop the unfair marketing practices that undermine the confidence of mothers, leading them to choose infant formula over breastfeeding.

While we congratulate the government for the very good regulatory framework; and also appreciate the recently completed Food and Nutrition Action Plan, that I trust will  be official soon; we strongly recommend to strengthen the Law enforcement and putting an end to the promotion of Breast Milk Substitutes in health institutions.

More needs to be done in maternity protection and workplace breastfeeding  policies; institutionalization of the baby friendly hospital initiative; and close collaboration with communities.

I like to thank our partner – the Albanian IBFAN and the Ministry of Health for the periodic monitoring, their support to creating more awareness in health facilities and the establishment of mother support groups in communities.

Every infant and child has the right to good nutrition. This is what the Convention on the Rights of the Child says. This year, the Convention will be in force for 25 years – a reason more to make sure it is implemented in Albania.



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