Joint Statement by UNICEF, WHO & Pakistan Pediatric Association on importance of Breastfeeding

12 June 2024
a young mother holds her newborn baby
UNICEF/UNI535356/Bashir

A joint statement by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO) and the Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), has emphasised the importance of breastfeeding for infant and maternal health.

Breastfeeding is the optimal way to nourish infants and protect their health. Breast milk provides essential nutrients, antibodies, and enzymes that cannot be replicated in formula milk, promoting optimal growth, development, and immunity.

Aggressive marketing tactics by formula milk companies can undermine breastfeeding practices and compromise infant health. Such practices exploit vulnerable populations and prioritize profit over the well-being of infants and mothers.

Formula milk carries risks, including a higher likelihood of infections, allergies, and chronic diseases compared to breast milk. Limiting the promotion of formula milk is crucial to safeguarding infant health and the companies who are producing Baby formula milk cannot be part of any forum that consults about good nutrition for children and mothers due to the conflict of interest.

Implementing and enforcing regulations to restrict the marketing, advertising, and distribution of formula milk products and refrain from the influence of formula milk producing companies.

Affirming the commitment of governments, international organisations, and civil society to prioritise breastfeeding as a public health imperative, it is recommended that Govt (the federal, provincial & district levels) should not encourage the formula milk industry to be part of public health & nutrition interventions from policy to implementation level. This includes allocating resources, joining any Nutrition Board/committee/forum, and implementing and advising on nutrition policies and programs that support the nutrition agenda in Pakistan.

We must establish mechanisms to monitor the implementation and impact of breastfeeding promotion efforts, including tracking breastfeeding rates, monitoring compliance with regulations, and assessing the effectiveness of support interventions are key for improving the nutritional status, hence the inclusion of any conflicting entity (formula milk industry) to Government led coordination forum like Infant feeding board, Nutrition board, etc. is not advisable and unethical with conflict of interest.

In principle, the development of effective policy, normative and guidance processes, and frameworks must be free of conflict of interest.

Involvement of such industries in public policymaking, norm-setting, programme guidance, programme implementation, research and evaluation processes has been observed in opening doors/means for violating the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes and related World Health Assembly resolutions (the Code).

This is aligned with the SIXTY-NINTH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY A69/7, and Pakistan has committed to the World Health Assembly resolutions and Sustainable Development Goals aimed at addressing malnutrition in the country.

Therefore, UNICEF, WHO, and PPA call to follow the internationally agreed principles regarding breastmilk substitutes (BMS) industries, and specifically, request all partners including Government line ministries to:

  1. Commit to the protection, promotion, and support of optimal breastfeeding for children between 0 to 24 months of age with timely introduction of complementary feeding after the period of exclusive breastfeeding at the end of 6 months which should continue till the age of 36 months.
  2. Control the inappropriate use of the BMS/powdered milk, which is unsafe, expensive, and detrimental to the health of children, by NOT calling for support from Baby Food Manufacturing Industries and such support includes not making them a member of any Nutrition Board, promoting, accepting or distributing donations of BMS, including infant formula, other milk products, complementary foods, and feeding equipment, such as bottles and teats.
  3. Removal/reversal of any notification and/or interventions where the Formula Milk Industry is included as a member or implementor for Public Health & Nutrition agenda led by Government ministries.

     

Media contacts

Abdul Sami Malik
Communication Specialist
UNICEF Pakistan
Tel: +92-300-855-6654
Tel: +92-51-209-7811

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