The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) emphasized the role of breastfeeding in the difficult context of Afghanistan, during the review of the initial report of Afghanistan. This review took place on the 18th of January 2011, at Palais Wilson in Geneva.
The CRC Committee reviewed the progress made by the state party on the implementation of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. The progress made on basic health services and access to health care was discussed. Many Committee members posed questions regarding the access to health service of children, of girls in particular and the training of health professionals and midwives.
The chair of the CRC Committee - Ms. Yanghee Lee - emphasized the importance of breastfeeding in Afghanistan. Because of the high malnutrition and the poor sanitation conditions the low breastfeeding rates are alarming, said the chairperson. She went on to emphasize the importance that the Committee places on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Afghanistan has adopted this code; however its implementation is not adequate as violations persist. Example of television interviews of baby foods were brought to the attention of the Afghan delegation. The Committee also interrogated on the availability and adequacy of training provided on this code to health professionals.
Ms. Nadera Hayat Burhani – Deputy Minister of Public Health – responded to these issues. She said that the International Code has been endorsed and enforced by the government. The Ministry of Public Health has responded to the cases of violations on television by sending a letter to all the media in the country, instructing them to ask for authorization from this ministry before airing or publishing advertisement on “powder milks”.
The review of the situation of child rights in Afghanistan touched upon the many difficulties that children face in a country that is still facing internal conflict and is striving to find economic and social stability. Especially critical is the situation of girl children which are often the victims of forced and early marriage, suffer abuse and have less access to education and health care. Also the Committee raised questions in relation to the co-existance of three different legal systems in place: the laws ratified by the parliament, the Islamic law and the customary law. Other subjects include: the lack of monitoring and coordination between different institutions dealing with child rights; the recruitment of children in the armed conflict; children working on the street; the rights of children living with their parents in prisons.
Nonetheless the Committee recognized some of the positive steps that the new Afghan government has undertaken despite the turbulent time and the lack of a stable peace in the country. Efforts have been made to set up and strengthen institutions that will protect child rights, adopt laws and incorporate the Convention on the Rights of the Child and enhance the education of boys and girls in this country.