Monday, 6 June 2011

The government of Egypt commits to "sign" the International Code in the near future

(Geneva, 6/06/2011) 
Today the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) reviewed the 3rd and 4th periodic report of Egypt. The report was submitted by the pre-revolution government.

Many Committee members asked questions based on the alternative report provided by IBFAN on the situation of infant and young child feeding. In particular, one Committee member (Ms. Mauras) when talking about the impact of private sector on child rights, raised the concern that many private companies have been found to market and promote breastmilk substitutes in hospitals and maternity clinics. This happens even though there is a law in Egypt, but which is not strictly implemented, said the Committee member.
The Committee’s rapporteur on Egypt, Ms. Lee, wanted to know why has the BFHI stopped since 1990s

The government responded to these questions when addressing issues of early child development and malnutrition. The head of the delegation. Ms. Lamiaa Mohsen, said that Egypt pays high attention to fundamental interventions such as breastfeeding, even though she is aware that there are problems concerning exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding. However, the government has started a programme with UNICEF to revitalize the BFHI and to recertify 200 hospitals in 7 governorates. Plans are there to expand to other 7 governorates. This programme will include training of health personnel. Also, she mentioned the creation of a website where people can access information. 

Another Committee member, Ms. Herzcog, raised concerns on the issue of maternity protection. Egypt provides only a limited maternity leave and only for women working in the public sector. She asked whether the government has any plans to provide better conditions for women that will give birth, taking into consideration the ILO Convention 183 and the WHO recommendation for exclusivebreastfeeding up to 6 months. What conditions are there for those mothers who have no right to maternity leave?
The head of the delegation said that a training on maternity protection had been planned for March, in collaboration with IBFAN, but did not take place due to the political revolution. She said this will hopefully take place in the upcoming 3 to 4 months. 

The CRC chairperson, Mr. Zermatten, posed again the question on maternity leave, asking information about the condition about women in the private sector. Also, he wanted to know if the country intends to adopt the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, as many companies have been seen in hospitals. 

The head of the delegation reported that maternity leave is of 3 months or 13 weeks. There are plans to extend it to 6 months with a half pay. When mothers go back to work, they have the right to breastfeeding break for 1 hour. According to Ms. Mohsen, private companies also grant maternity leave of the same duration, as obliged by law. However, she recognized that repeated maternity leaves may discourage companies from hiring young women. 

When responding to questions on the International Code, the head of delegation stated that the government of Egypt and the Ministry of Health intends "to sign" the International Code in the near future. In July 2010 the governement of Egypt has issued the By-law 2075/2010 which gives effect to the International Code in Egypt. Therefore we understand the words of the delegation to mean commitment for strong enforcement of this law. This is great news for breastfeeding advocates, and a commitment that NGOs in Egypt should use to hold the government accountable.