Engaging parliamentarians to curb child malnutrition through promotion of breastfeeding
JAKARTA, 7 October, 2010 — The role of legislators in promoting breastfeeding as a key strategy to tackle malnutrition in Indonesia was highlighted in a panel discussion at the parliament today.
The panel discussion is a part of a two-day exhibition on breastfeeding for child survival and development which started on Wednesday, organized by the Indonesian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development.
“As representatives of the people, parliamentarians can act as champions in advocating and promoting breastfeeding,” said Dr Ahmad Nizar Shihab, the forum’s chairperson. “We need to support mothers at the time of birth, at home and at the workplace through public education, social policies and budgeting.”
Following recommendations from UNICEF and the World Health Organization, exclusive breastfeeding, which means giving only breastmilk without additional foods or liquids, in the first six months, can save the lives of more than 30,000 Indonesian children, each year. Breastfeeding until the age of two, with complementary feeding, also helps children achieve their full growth potential.
Based on a UNICEF report, Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition, more than 7.5 million children of children under-five years of age in Indonesia are stunted (short for their age), more than 1.8 million are underweight and more than 1 million are wasted (too thin for their height). UNICEF, which is supporting the two day exhibition, advocates increasing access to services, and the quality of those services with a special focus on the most poor and vulnerable families. This is done by investing in the skills and potential of health service providers, particularly in knowledge of nutrition and breastfeeding, as well as local institutions, organizations and communities working with children.
In Indonesia breastfeeding practices are rapidly deteriorating. According to the government’s latest Demographic Health Survey less than a third of babies under six months old are exclusively breastfed. Evidence shows that the rate of bottle-feeding is sharply rising.
Low rates of breastfeeding are exacerbated by the lack of regulation of the marketing and promotion of infant formula and other breast-milk substitutes in Indonesia, which many countries control through the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
Indonesia has yet to adopt the Code, nearly 30 years after it was established by the World Health Assembly. However, the government is currently drafting a national regulation to control promotion of breastmilk substitutes in health facilities by health workers, while the 2009 Health Law includes provisions supporting exclusive breastfeeding. Amongst other provisions, the Code stipulates that infant formula and similar products should not be advertised, free samples should not be provided to pregnant women, and incentives should not be provided by manufacturers to health workers.
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