Friday 28 January 2011

Weak legislation on marketing of breastmilk substitutes in Lao PDR worries the CRC Committee

The review of Lao PDR took place today by the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee was very much concerned about the issue of child nutrition in general, due to the situation of high malnutrition prevalence in Laos. There was also a particular concern raised in relation to breastfeeding and the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

The International Baby Food Action Network had presented an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding, information which was used by the Committee to interrogate the government delegation. The Committee members expressed concern on the low rates of breastfeeding and initiation to breastfeeding, and also on the disparities, both regional and cultural in breastfeeding indicators. 

It also expressed concern that Laos has weak legislative measures that are adopted to regulate marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS), which lead to aggressive forms of marketing, in violation with the International Code. In these way, women are pushed away from breastfeeding with consequences for the health of children, in a country where baby food companies have a strong influence.  
The government has not been involved in monitoring violations of the Code and there are no sanctions in place for violators.
The Government delegation responded to questions by  Committee members by saying that exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months is a priority and that the government has undertaken some initiatives at the village level to increase awareness and knowledge of mothers: e.g. through theater shows by village organizations. TV and radio campaigns were said to have been organized with the same purpose. In order to prevent use of artificial milk, government tries to raise awareness of mothers of the negative impacts of these products. Some 4000 professionals have been trained for this purpose.
The direct questions on the International Code and the Lao legislation were not answered by the government delegation.
On malnutrition, the government said that the objective for 2015 is to reduce the percentage of malnutrition down to 4%. One of the main institutions working on the issue is the Lao Women Union. The government also said that it is their policy to provide basic health care access to mothers and children. Unfortunately they failed to respond to the question posed by the committee on concrete measures taken at the grassroots level to eradicate maternal and child mortality.

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