Governments to Strengthen Their Laws To Fully Comply With International Code
The 60th session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) took place from 29th May to 15th June 2012, in Geneva. The Committee reviewed the progress of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 6 countries: Algeria, Australia, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey, and Viet Nam.
IBFAN presented alternative reports on the situation of infant and young child feeding for all of the 6 countries. The reports of Australia, Greece and Viet Nam were prepared in coordination with the regional and local IBFAN groups. The reports of Algeria, Cyprus and Turkey were written by the Geneva Infant Feeding Association (IBFAN-GIFA).
In its concluding observations, the CRC Committee made observations and recommendations on infant and child feeding and breastfeeding to the 6 countries.
The CRC Committee expressed particular concern over the low exclusive breastfeeding rates at 6 months of age in the countries under review: e.g. less than 1% n Greece, 7% in Algeria, 13% in Viet Nam and nearly 15% in Australia. In its recommendations, the CRC Committee told governments to take all necessary efforts to improve the situation.
The Committee made strong recommendations on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. It recommended the governments of Australia, Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Viet Nam to strengthen their laws in order to fully implement the International Code and the relevant subsequent resolutions. In the case of Cyprus, it pointed out that the European Union Directive 2006/141/EC on infant formulae and follow-on formulae is less comprehensive than the International Code, and thus the government was recommended to “strengthen its legislation regulating the marketing of breastmilk substitutes with a view to fully complying with the standards of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.” This recommendation applies equally to all the other European countries such as Greece that have adopted the same Directive.
In addition, the CRC Committee recommended the establishment of effective monitoring mechanisms in order to give effect to the International Code. The Committee was particularly concerned about the widespread practice of free samples of formula in the hospitals of Greece and Viet Nam, therefore it recommended the governments to take actions in cases of violations of the International Code.
In general, the CRC Committee recommended governments to adopt comprehensive nutrition policies, strategies and legislation related to positive infant and young child feeding practice. To Australia, the CRC Committee recommended to adequately fund the National Breastfeeding Strategy and to stop including industry representatives in the process of its implementation.
The health system has an important role to play in the promotion, protection and support to breastfeeding and thus attention was to the Baby-Friendly Hospitals Initiative, which should be strongly promoted, implemented and systematically monitored by all governments.
The Committee considers important the sensitization of the general public, parents and professionals on breastfeeding. It recommended governments to monitor the situation of infant and young child feeding in their countries, strengthen efforts to promote breastfeeding, and sensitize and train health workers, government officials and parents.
In the case of Australia, the CRC Committee also paid attention to the issue of maternity protection. Australia received a recommendation to review its Parental Leave act so as to allow working mothers to exclusively breastfeed their infants for 6 months.
On issues related to child nutrition more generally, the Committee expressed its concern with regards to child malnutrition and health disparities. It focused on the need to improve equal access to health care services, increase budget allocations to the health sector, in particular for maternal, newborn and child health, etc.
Child Rights and Business
The CRC Committee paid attention to the obligation of the States to hold business corporations accountable for their human rights violations in their territories and abroad, in the cases of Australia and Turkey. These recommendations apply to all business sectors including the baby food sector and may be understood as a recommendation for strengthening monitoring of compliance by baby food companies with the International Code.
For more details on the recommendations related to infant and young child feeding (IYCF) to each of the countries, please refer to the the complete report here