Monday 17 June 2013

Breastfeeding at the Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights.

In 2013, IBFAN submitted to the CESCR five alternative reports on the situation of infant and young child feeding in Azerbaijan, Denmark (50th session),Austria, Belarus and Egypt (51st pre-session). The reports aim at sensitizing the Committee on the issue of infant and young child feeding and its importance for the full implementation of the rights enshrined in the International Covenant, in particular the right to health and food. The IBFAN-GIFA team presented the reports orally at a meetings of the CESCR with NGOs.

Tuesday 11 June 2013

Children’s Rights in Guinea-Bissau at the CRC Committee

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.

Friday 7 June 2013


On Monday 3rd May 2013 the situation of children’s rights in Israel, including the Occupied Palestinian Territories, have been reviewed by the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) at its 23rd session.
The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) presented an alternative report on the situation of infant and young child feeding.

The issue of breastfeeding was tackled by the CRC Committee that asked about the absence of a database for the collection of data and of a law on marketing of breastmilk substitutes and about the situation of BFHI and of maternity protection at work.
In particular, one Committee mentioned the maternity protection law providing that a female employee who is prohibited from working at certain jobs by law because of her breastfeeding is entitled to be excused from work and this absence is tantamount to leave without pay and asked clarification on its interpretation in order to avoid discrimination of women that decide to breastfeed.
The delegation could not answer all the questions due to time restraints; however they reported improvements in breastfeeding rates as they already reached the goals set by the government for the year 2020. To further support breastfeeding, each government facility must provide space for breastfeeding or for expressing breastmilk.
The delegation also explained how the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is enforced is some situations, for example vis-à-vis advertising companies. In addition, they mentioned the 2003 Remedia case concerning a bulk of imported infant formula that lead to some children dying and some other being irreversibly harmed due to lack of a fundamental vitamin, and as a result all imported formula is now carefully examined. It was also noted that HIV positive mothers are given free breastmilk substitutes.
Finally, the Committee was concerned by reports of delays at checkpoints also involving pregnant women that are seeking medical assistance.

The delegation informed that within the West Bank all roadblocks have been removed and therefore there are no restrictions on the freedom of movement. To enter Jerusalem there still are checkpoints and roadblocks but there are not recent reports of delays in passage of pregnant women and all the military personnel is specifically trained to let though medical cases as expeditiously as possible.

Breastfeeding situation in Slovenia

The situation of the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Slovenia has been reviewed at the 63rd session of the Committee on the Right of the Child (CRC Committee), on Wednesday 6th June.
IBFAN presented its alternative report where it highlighted that Slovenia has only few provisions of law implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
The issue of breastfeeding has been touched upon during the interactive dialogue between the CRC Committee and the country delegation.
Slovenian delegation reported that their country puts a special emphasis on breastfeeding, in laws, policies and guidelines (e.g. in the ‘Guidelines on Healthy Diet for Young Children’), where it has pledged to increase exclusive breastfeeding for the period 0-6 months of the baby’s life.
According to the delegation, breastfeeding rates are high in Slovenia, with 97% of breastfed babies up to 3 months and 2/3 exclusively breastfed in 2010.
Slovenia has also adopted a ban on marketing of breastmilk substitutes, while many maternity clinics are mother-friendly hospitals.
Breastfeeding is included in labour legislation according to which mothers have the right to breastfeed breaks until the baby is 18 months of age, without loss of payment.

The problem of high incidence of obesity in the country was also addressed by the delegation. In a US-EU countries ranking on obesity, Slovenia falls in the first third with the most obese population. Obesity is a complex issue and it is mentioned in several policies: on physical activity, on nutrition, etc. Vending machines have been abolished in schools and a policy on healthy diet in schools is subsidized by the State.

Wednesday 5 June 2013


At the 23rd session of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC Committee) the situation of children’s rights in Uzbekistan has been reviewed on Tuesday 4th May. IBFAN presented its alternative report on the state of infant and young child feeding in the Country, noting the high infant and maternal mortality rates and the very low rate of exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months of age (only 26%).

The CRC Committee asked information on measures to prevent infant and maternal mortality and on breastfeeding practices and the implementation of the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilksubstitutes.
The Uzbek delegation mentioned two programs designed and implemented in the Country in collaboration with UNICEF, namely the ‘Growth and development for young children’ program and the ‘Breastfeeding’ program to monitor the health of newborns. As a result of these efforts, over the last 10 years the proportion of breastfeeding has increased to 80%.

It is not clear if the data provided by the delegation concerns exclusive breastfeeding and if it reports a national average or it relates only to focus communities involved in UNICEF programs, therefore such data does not provide a clear picture of the situation of breastfeeding rates in Uzbekistan.

The question on marketing of breastmilk substitutes remained unanswered.

Concerning maternal and infant mortality, the Country delegation reported a 10% of maternal mortality in 2012 and a 4% of infant mortality in the same year. These data are much lower than those reported by UNICEF in 2010-2008 (30% of maternal mortality and 44% of infant mortality) and it might be due to discrepancies in data collection, a general problem acknowledged by the Uzbek delegation and being tackled at the national level.