ISLAMABAD: Save the Children under the banner of its global EVERYONE Campaign is commemorating “Breast Feeding Week” from October 1 to October 7, 2013.
In an attempt to sensitise stakeholders and masses a national conference was held in Islamabad. The ceremony was well attended by representatives of civil society, government, UN agencies and media.
Dr Shahzad Ali Khan, lead author of the report titled “Breastfeeding: A roadmap to promotion and protection” commissioned by Save the Children, presented the key findings of the report.
He stated, “If a child is not breast fed; there are 11 times more chances of suffering from diarrhoea and 14 times from pneumonia as compared to breastfed children”.
While Pakistan ratified IBN code in 1981, the legislation came in 2002. Dr Shahzad also shared the challenges in effective implementation of “The Protection of Breast Feeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance, 2002”.
He further shared that a startling finding was that 84% of mother interviewed under the study were advised formula milk by health care providers. Most of the doctors are frequently visited by representatives of Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) companies which is a sheer violation of the 2002 ordinance.
Member National Assembly Ms Maiza Hameed Gujjar was the chief guest at the inaugural session. The report was formally launched when David Skinner Country Director, Save the Children Pakistan Programme presented the report to the guests of honour Ms Maiza Hameed Gujjar MNA and Mr Shaukat Ali Yousafzai, minister for health in KP.
Speaking at the event, Mr Shaukat Yousafzai strongly condemned the malpractices by Breast Milk Substitute Companies and health professionals. He also noted that KP province will take stringent measures to encounter the marketing of formula milk companies. Speaking of the reforms the minister noted that the government of KP has taken measures to encourage antennal visits and the process of procurement of medicines for government hospitals is being made transparent. He also announced that the provincial government is soon going to enact the Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Bill 2013 with stringent punishments for violators. He emphasised the role of health professionals, media and religious leaders in the promotion of breastfeeding and committed that the provincial government will work closely with all to ensure increase in exclusive breastfeeding in the province.
Maiza Hameed Gujjar MNA, while endorsing the findings of the report, termed the report a call to action to rediscover the importance of breastfeeding and to support mothers to breastfeed their babies – particularly in the poorest communities of Pakistan. She commended Save the Children for playing a leading role in highlighting the key social issues. The government needs to ensure that infant feeding boards are notified.
Additional Director General RMNCH &N Program Punjab Dr Zafar Ikram shared that pre-birth measures which include proper diet and nutritional care of a mother must also be taken into account, so that the mother is able enough to properly lactate her child after birth.
Dr Ali Nasir Bugti, deputy director Provincial Nutrition Cell, Balochistan, said that legislation is under its way and the Balochistan Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding Bill 2013 will be placed before the Provincial Assembly for enactment in its coming session.
Ms Sahib Jan Bader, project director MNCH, Sindh, said that focus is on community mobilisation, training of LHWs and proper implementation of the Sindh Protection and Promotion of Breast Feeding and Child Nutrition Act 2013 that has been passed by Sindh Assembly.
Earlier, Dr Tabish Hazir, Head Pediatrician at PIMS Hospital Islamabad, presented the situational analysis of Exclusive Breastfeeding in Pakistan. He shared that studies indicates that in newborns after 3-6 months there has been drastic decline in exclusive breastfeeding. In comparison to other developing nations such as India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, Pakistan has the lowest exclusive breastfeeding rate of 37% in South Asia as compared to 76% in Sri Lanka. Ironically Pakistan has the highest bottle feeding rate in South Asia which has increased from 31% to 41% in the last few years.
EVERYONE Campaign Ambassador and Media icon Farah Sadia said that it is proven through scientific research and further supported by Islamic teachings that for the first 2 years exclusive breastfeeding is the right of a child. She urged the media to play their role in spreading awareness amongst the masses regarding the importance of breastfeeding.
The participants put forth pertinent questions for promoting breastfeeding in Pakistan, the panellists reaffirmed their firm commitment to take practical measures to reduce infant mortality in Pakistan.
Speaking at the national conference, David Skinner noted that according to results of the National Nutrition Survey 2011, Pakistan has a high rate of malnutrition. As 43.7% children under five years of age are stunted, 15.1% are wasted and 32% are underweight. However, all this can be prevented through breastfeeding which is the most effective of all ways to prevent diseases and malnutrition.
Ghulam Qadri, deputy country director Save the Children, committed that Save the Children will continue to implement programmes for Mother and Child Health and will work alongside government for effective legislation. He observed that alarmingly malnutrition is costing 3% loss in GDP in Pakistan. He extended profound regards to panellists and participants for contributing in the national conference and hoped such endeavours will help us in achieving the target.
Save the Children’s EVERY ONE campaign was launched in April 2010 in Pakistan. The campaign focuses on Pakistan’s achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4 which is to achieve a two third reduction in child mortality by 2015.