Fiji calls for appropriate infant and young child feeding during emergencies to protect and safeguard the best interests of a child

24 February 2021
UNICEF and WHO, together with the Fiji National Disaster Management Office  and the Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical Services signed a commitment calling for an increase in protection, promotion and support for breastfeeding during emergencies.

SUVA, 24 February 2021 – Today, the Government of Fiji, together with UNICEF and WHO, called for the increase in protection, promotion and support for breastfeeding during emergencies.

“The Ministry of Health and Medical Services is pledging our support as custodians of health, breastfeeding and safe infant feeding practices for more than 100,000 children under five years in Fiji. We will continue to advocate for breastfeeding and optimal feeding practices during and following disasters and emergencies,” said the Hon. Minister for Health and Medical Services, Dr. Ifereimi Waqainabete. “Even if animal milk is required, it will be procured and administered according to government processes, together with proper counselling on an individual basis for parents and caregivers.”

“Let me once again convey my Ministry’s commitment. As you are all aware, milk is no longer provided in emergency food ration packages for people who need assistance post disasters,” said the Hon. Minister for Defence, National Security and Policing, Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management, Mr. Inia Seruiratu. “I must say that we are fully supportive of this initiative and the commitments made. I say this in my capacity as one of the leaders in the Scaling up Nutrition Movement based in Geneva, and of course with my involvement with Fiji’s Zero Hunger Policy as well as on Fiji’s Nutrition and Food Security Policy which I know is still making its way to cabinet.”

The Government of Fiji, together with UN partners, reiterated that exclusive breastfeeding is recommended during the first six months of a child’s life and should be continued for up to two years with the addition of healthy foods from six months onwards. These standards also hold true during cyclones and other emergencies.

“We are pleased to see the renewed commitment from the Government of Fiji and the joint support from WHO, to promote exclusive breastfeeding,” said UNICEF Pacific Representative, Sheldon Yett. “This provides critical protection for infants during emergency situations, when potable water and good sanitation is often in especially short supply.”

There is a need for basic interventions to facilitate breastfeeding during emergencies including prioritizing mothers with young children for shelter, food, security, water and sanitation. This will enable mother-to-mother support, providing specific space for skilled breastfeeding counseling and support to maintain or re-establish lactation.

As part of the commitment signed today, the Fijian Government, together with UNICEF and WHO, will support the training of health officials on the best options for feeding infants, as well as education and support of caregivers on optimal infant feeding during emergencies.

“We will continue to ensure responsible marketing and donation of breast milk substitutes and to enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, which is reflected in WHO’s Regional Action Framework on Protecting Children from the Harmful Impact of Food Marketing in the Western Pacific,” said Dr. Akeem Ali, Acting Representative of WHO for the Pacific, reaffirming WHO’s full support to Fiji.


Notes to Editors:

About the Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services:
The Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services remains firmly committed to maintain a high standard of efficient, equitable, accessible and affordable health care service delivery to all Fijians through maintaining the Universal Health Coverage by leaving no one behind.

About the Fiji National Disaster Management Office:

The National Disaster Management Office (NDMO) was established as the coordinating Centre for the Fijian Government in times of natural disasters. The NDMO operates under the National Disaster Management Act and the National Disaster Management Plan.

The NDMO coordinates the National Management of Disaster Activities through the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development and Disaster Management Organization Structures at National, Divisional and the local and community level.

About WHO:
The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nation’s specialized agency for international public health. In the Pacific, WHO’s Division of Pacific Technical Support provides tailored, timely support to 21 Pacific island countries and areas. Our main office is in Suva, Fiji, and the Division has six other offices across the region: The Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

For more information, please contact:

Sunil Chandra, Fijian Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Tel: +679 8905053,
Rusiate Baleilevuka, National Disaster Management Office, Tel: +679 9904467,
Zubnah Khan, UNICEF Pacific, Tel: +679 9988137,
JIN Ni, WHO Pacific, Tel: +679 7779722, 

Media contacts

Zubnah Khan
Communication Officer
UNICEF Pacific
Tel: +679 330 0439 Ext. 175
Tel: 9988137


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