The situation of children’s rights in Guinea-Bissau has been reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) at its 63rd session, on June 7th 2013.
IBFAN presented an alternative report on the country situation vis-à-vis infant and young child feeding. The report shows how, although improving, breastfeeding rates are still insufficient: only 38% of infants were exclusively breastfed for 6 months in 2010, and in 2012 72% of babies were initiated to breast within one hour from birth, while the introduction of complementary food is not timely for more than half of infants.
Inadequate breastfeeding practices contribute to the high child and maternal mortality rates in Guinea-Bissau, where 9% of children die before their first year of life. Breastfeeding promotion activities took place in the country thanks to international cooperation partners, however projects are expiring this year and the country does not have the means to maintain them on its own.
Maternity protection at work is another challenge for Guinea-Bissau, where maternity leave is as short as 2 months and the relative benefits are paid by the employer, situation which carries the risk of generating a discriminatory effect against women, as employers may want to avoid paying such benefits.
During the interactive dialogue between the CRC Committee and the country delegation, the issue of breastfeeding has not been addressed in detail but only briefly mentioned in the context of health care. On this point, the country delegation assured the Committee that the national health system extends to all national territory, including rural and remote areas. The country is engaged in developing health plans, including a strategic plan on HIV/AIDS, on water and sanitation, and a financial strategic plan to reach the millennium development goals that will cover breastfeeding promotion and maternal mortality reduction programs. Regarding reproductive health services, the country delegation noted that prenatal consultation is free and includes counselling to pregnant mothers.
Other issues debated at the session included a wide range of topics: child adoption, juvenile justice, birth registration, infanticide, paedophilia, violence against children, child labour, children in street situation, education, child marriage and children with disabilities.
The dialogue between Guinea-Bissau and the Committee has been very collaborative and the country delegation was well aware of Guinea-Bissau’s shortcoming in realizing children’s rights in the country; however it stressed that due to financial constraints many improvements are not achievable at the moment.