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The Health Ministry warns against formula milk distribution among children affected by Mt. Merapi eruption and tsunami in Mentawai

This is an unofficial translation provided by UNICEF Indonesia based on the Health Ministry's release.

JAKARTA, 28 October 2010 -  The Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih has warned the public not to feed formula milk to infants and babies in areas affected by Mount Merapi and Mentawai tsunami which can seriously endanger their lives of children. The government deeply appreciates donor’s generosity in helping the survivors but has appealed against donating formula milk.  The government will also impose stricter controls over the donation and distribution of formula milk among families affected by the disasters that have struck the two areas.

“We strongly urge mothers in the quake-affected areas to exclusively breastfed them for six months, then continue breastfeeding until the age of two with supplementary foods which the government has provided,” said Minister Endang Sedyaningsih.

For survivors in areas near Mt. Merapi, the Health Ministry has distributed 6 tons of supplementary food ( Districts of Magelang 2 tons, Yogyakarta 2 tons, Boyolai 1 ton and Klaten 1 ton). For Mentawai survivors as many as 10 tons (West Sumatera province 5 tons and Mentawai district 5 tonnes).

According to the Health Minister, breastmilk can fulfill all the essential nutritional needs of babies up to six months old. It cannot be replaced by other foods. Breastmilk is the best and safest food for children and contains antibodies that can protect babies from several illnesses.

Results of a UNICEF assessment carried out one month after the Yogyakarta earthquake in 2006 indicated that three out of four families with children under six months old had received donations of infant formula. Results have also shown an increase of infant formula consumption from pre-earthquake 32 per cent to 43 per cent after earthquake. As a consequence, incidences of diarrhoea amongst infants below six months old who received donations of infant formula (25.4 per cent) were twice that of those who did not (11.5 per cent). Moreover, on average, the rate of diarrhoea amongst children between six months and 23 months was five times the pre-earthquake rate.

Infant formula and powdered milk are common donations during emergencies. Unfortunately, these products are often distributed in an uncontrolled manner and consumed by infants and children who would otherwise be breastfed. In disasters, given the likelihood of poorer environmental conditions such as lower availability of safe water, it is crucial for mothers to continue breastfeeding their children instead of resorting to infant formula milk.

As of 28 October 6.00 a.m. the death toll in Merapi is 32 people. Some 75 are receiving treatment in Dr. Sardjito Hospital 7 people , Bethesda Hospital 2 people, Panti Nugroho Hospital 9 people, Muntilan Hospital 40 people, Aisyah Hospital 2 people, Soeradji Hospital 4 people and Kemalang Health Centre 7 people, Maninrenggo Health Centre 1 people and Selo Puskesmas 3 people.

At least 58.669 people have been evacuated to Sleman: 19,050 people, Boyolali 4,216 people, Klaten 4,269 people and. Magelang 31,134 people.

In Mentawai, a total of 311 have died. Forty people are heavily injured and 200 have light injuries. The number of missing is 460 people with at least 520 people displaced.

This press release was issued by Public Information Centre,  Secretary General of The Ministry of Health. For more information, please call  021-52907416-9, fax: 52921669, Call Center: 021-500567, 30413700, or e-mail,,

Head of Public Communication
drg. Tritarayati, SH
NIP 195610091983012001





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Previous stories

Read more about how UNICEF supported Indonesian journalists with information how to educate the public on the dangers of uncontrolled formula milk donation and distribution.

Good collaboration among government, humanitarian workers and volunteers help to ensure the public do not appeal for formula milk during emergencies, which can endanger the live of children. Click here and find out more.


Click here to watch a UNICEF video report on the importance of breastfeeding for mothers and children in emergency situations.


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