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UNICEF Commends Viet Nam on Banning Advertisement of Breastmilk Substitutes for Children under 24 Months

Breastfeeding is one of the most effective interventions to save lives of young children, contributing to prevent 13% of all under 5 deaths. © UNICEF Viet Nam\2007\Doan Bao Chau

Ha Noi, 21 June 2012 – UNICEF Viet Nam’s Representative, Ms. Lotta Sylwander, today applauded the Government of Viet Nam on passing the Law on Advertisement which includes a ban on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes for children under 24 months. The Law on Advertisement is meant to regulate the rights and obligations of organisations and individuals related to advertising.

Strengthening and enforcing laws to protect children’s health
 
“A vote for the Law on Advertisement is a vote for Vietnamese children’s health. Viet Nam’s National Assembly has remarkably used the opportunity to fully comply with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. It has also acknowledged that in fulfilling the child’s right to health, the public must be protected from false and biased information that persuades mothers to give up breastfeeding in favour of artificial feeding”, said UNICEF Viet Nam’s Representative, Ms. Lotta Sylwander.

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes does not prohibit the production and sale of breastmilk substitutes. However it covers the improper marketing and promotion of food products that compete with breastfeeding as they are important factors that often negatively affect the choice and ability of a mother to breastfeed optimally. Given the special vulnerability of infants and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, usual marketing practices are unsuitable for these products.
 
The Code, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, stipulates that all governments should adopt it into national legislation. Since 1981, 84 countries globally have enacted legislation implementing all or many of the provisions of the Code.  Viet Nam is now joining a growing number of countries worldwide banning marketing of breastmilk substitutes for children up to 24 months in line with international recommendations.

“This vote shows strong and serious commitment to international conventions such as the CRC, which Viet Nam is a signatory of. It also shows the National Assembly cares for Viet Nam’s future generations”, said a member of the National Assembly. 

There is no substitute for breastmilk

“The scientific evidence is clear: breastfeeding gives children the best start in life. The World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF, and scientists and doctors worldwide recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life, along with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age and beyond. It is the best option for Vietnamese families and the best choice for the nation”, Ms. Lotta Sylwander said.

“However, this life- and cost-saving practice faces serious threats. Vietnamese families must often overcome their doctor’s skepticism that a mother’s milk is enough for her child. At maternity hospitals, mothers may be bombarded with persuasive marketing that undermines their confidence to breastfeed, idealises artificial feeding, and does not warn of the risks of not breastfeeding. Products on the market can be labeled with misleading information and images”, Ms. Sylwander added.

The next step is now to ensure that this new legislation is put into practice, and that mothers and communities are educated on the importance of breastfeeding their babies exclusively. UNICEF and its partners Alive & Thrive and WHO will carry on supporting the Vietnamese government in doing so, and continue to work at the community level to disseminate information, develop the capacities of key stakeholders such as health workers and guarantee that all primary health care facilities provide skilled counseling and support for breastfeeding to ensure that all mothers have access to these services close to their homes.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in over 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF Viet Nam and its work visit: http://www.unicef.org/vietnam

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