Thursday 30 May 2013

Armenia to Adopt the Draft Law on the International Code and Strengthen BFHI Monitoring

In view of the 63rd session of the CRC Committee, IBFAN presented an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding in Armenia, prepared by Confidence Health NGO in collaboration with GIFA. The report showed in particular how the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is heavily violated in hospitals and how NGOs registered violations of the International Code also in some baby-friendly certified hospitals since the implementation and monitoring of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) has been discontinued in 2008. In addition, the report mentions the existence of a draft law on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, its weaknesses and possible improvements. However, after the report was written there have been some positive developments that resulted in a strengthening of the draft law.
The CRC Committee reviewed the situation of children’s rights in Armenia on Wednesday 29th May. The issue of breastfeeding and infant and young child feeding were raised by the Committee, in particular in connection with the issues of the International Code and of BFHI. Questions were answered by the representative of the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
The Committee inquired on the plans of the government to finalize the draft law on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes and to adopt it as law and monitor it.
On this point, the Armenian delegate noted that the Country is in the process of adopting a law[i] prohibiting advertising of artificial food, including infant formula, and providing for measures to punish health workers that cooperate with distributors of infant formula. The parliament has just had a hearing on this law, and the MOH representative expressed her persuasion that the law will go through, despite lobbying against it by companies, because legislators look very favourably at it.
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
The Committee asked information on government’s plans to monitor practices in hospitals, where breastfeeding is not always properly encouraged and where infant formula can be provided to mothers.
MOH representative reported that 60% of babies are born in baby-friendly hospitals, where infant formula provision is not allowed, and explained that monitoring of baby-friendly hospitals is carried out by NGOs.
The CRC Committee expressed its disappointment on the lack of government initiative in monitoring of baby-friendly hospitals practices and on the lack of countrywide implementation of the initiative, and asked the government to justify it.
The MOH delegate explained that in all Armenian hospitals babies are kept with the mother; however she acknowledged that the supply of infant formula to mothers is indeed an actual practice. She also explained the lack of State monitoring of BFH with the fact that very active NGOs – especially IBFAN – are carrying it out and the State works hand in hand with them in this area. The delegate further acknowledged that sometimes medical personnel work with distributors of infant formula and may encourage mothers to use it. In this case she considers the State collaboration with NGOs a positive practice.
More broadly on nutrition, the representative acknowledged that the Country faces a problem of undernourishment mostly related to lack of vitamins. In Armenia children are not going hungry but they are not developing fully: there is a problem of undergrowth that a strategy developed with the assistance of UNICEF tries to tackle. The government delegate reminded that it is not only a health problem, but also of poverty and education.

[i] The draft law is named "Breastfeeding promotion and regulation of infant food marketing”

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