Friday 31 May 2013

Breastfeeding in Rwanda

On Thursday 30th and Friday 31st May the situation of children’s rights in Rwanda has been reviewed by the CRC Committee at its 63rd session, where the question of breastfeeding has arisen.
IBFAN has submitted an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding in Rwanda. The report notes that there are no baby-friendly hospitals; there is no legislative measure that implements the Code in Rwanda, only a draft measure; the policy on children’s health defines breastfeeding as a duty of mothers, putting the burden on women, and putting them in a vulnerable position and that the duration of maternity leave is short, only 12 weeks, and starting from the second 6 week mothers are entitled to receive only 20% of the salary. In addition, maternity benefits are paid for by the employer, which may result in employers discriminatory employment practices against women.

During the CRC session, the Rwandan delegation reported efforts to educate parents on breastfeeding and train pregnant women during the prenatal and postnatal period, in addition to campaigns on food production that is appropriate for young children.
It further explained that exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the practice followed in Rwanda. After a Committee member clarified that for the first 6 months of a baby’s life exclusive breastfeeding is the best feeding practice and that no other milk should be given, the Rwandan delegation added that soy milk is given as a complementary feeding after the first 6 months of age to combat child malnourishment.
The situation of BFHi has been briefly touched upon by a Committee member in the context of Rwanda’s Early Childhood Development Policy but the Country delegation did not elaborate on that.
More broadly on reduction of malnutrition, the delegation provided information on efforts to combat the problem through a national program for elimination of malnutrition. It also reported a 2009 screening program that reached each child in all villages where malnutrition is an issue. The screening program has been followed by an emergency program to accelerate the elimination of malnutrition. Other interventions include information on how to prepare local foods, economic empowerment of families, home gardens and kitchens for villages.

Other questions pertained to education, children with disabilities, leisure time and recreation, refugee law, mechanisms to tackle violence against children, discrimination of minorities, child labour, juvenile justice and adolescent reproductive health.

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”