Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Cyprus: Scarce information on infant and young child feeding


Cyprus reported for the third time at the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) on 30th of May 2012. Cyprus delegation was composed of 11  members,  one of which was from the Ministry of Health, Ms. Myrto AZINA-CHRONIDES (Medical Officer 1st class). She responded the questions of the Committee pertaining to health issues.
The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) sent an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding in Cyprus, which led to several questions being posed by the members of the CRC Committee on this subject.
Committee members acknowledged the fact that there is no data on breastfeeding, including exclusive breastfeeding or other infant feeding practices. They also asked for information on the efforts being made to promote the baby friendly hospital initiative as presently there are no certified baby-friendly hospitals in the country.
The delegation stressed that the government of Cyprus is committed to protecting and promoting breastfeeding and announced that a multidisciplinary committee is preparing a breastfeeding promotion plan. However no information was provided on breastfeeding rates in the country. According to the delegation only one hospital, Makarios, is baby-friendly, even though it is unclear when the certification of this hospital has occurred and whether it has been re-assessed.
According to the government representative, awareness raising programmes on adolescent health and nutrition focus on school as the basis for these programmes. However, Committee members noted that this is not sufficient as there are teenagers that are out of the school system, and most importantly because infant and young child feeing which is vital to the child’s health, cannot happen in school but it starts with pregnancy, birth and then breastfeeding and young child feeding.
Cyprus has adopted the EU Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae, as a measure to implement the International Code of Monitoring of Breastmilk Substitutes. The CRC Committee asked for more information on the efforts taken to implement and monitor the International Code. To these questions the delegation responded very briefly by saying that breastmilk substitutes are monitored by environmental inspectors on a 24 hour basis. It is thus unclear what are the results of such monitoring and what is the procedure in cases of violations.
The Committee also raised questions regarding the maternity protection of working women.  The delegation said that the government is very strict with promoting breastfeeding, and that women are given a leave anytime they need to breastfeed. While such an approach is welcome, it is unclear whether there is a policy in place to ensure breastfeeding breaks and favourable working conditions for breastfeeding women that work not only in the public sector but also in the private and informal sector.