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Karachi

OC
Our Correspondent
November 16, 2017

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Unicef nutrition chief calls for activating Sindh’s Infant Feeding Board

Unicef nutrition chief calls for activating Sindh’s Infant Feeding Board

Unicef Nutrition Chief in Pakistan Melanie Galvin has called for enforcing laws on breastfeeding and formula-milk producers on an urgent basis, as well as for activating the Infant Feeding Board in Sindh to promote the practice of infant feeding and discourage unethical practices.

Talking to The News after a sensitisation workshop on breastfeeding at a local hotel last week, she said multinational formula-milk producers had moved to developing countries, including Pakistan, after the tightening of laws against them in the developed world, and they were now influencing the mothers and doctors to use their products instead of encouraging mothers to breastfeed to their children, the best gift a mother could give to her child.

“In Pakistan, they have found their place even in the infant feeding boards of Sindh, Punjab and other provinces, which is very alarming, and we need to make collaborative efforts to remove them from these regulatory bodies, which have to take action against them.”

The sensitisation workshop had been organised by the Nutrition Support Programme in collaboration with Unicef Pakistan, Pakistan Pediatric Association (PPA), Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecologists (SOG). It was attended by leading physicians and health experts from various healthcare facilities and organisations.

The Unicef Nutrition head said: “The practices of formula-milk producers in Pakistan reminds me of cigarette manufacturers and they are using the similar tactics here after regulations were tightened against them in the modern world.”

She called for the capacity building of doctors, regulators and officials in promoting breastfeeding in the country. She deplored that breastfeeding rates were going in the “wrong direction” in Pakistan where women were being advised by doctors to bottle-feed their children. 

She lamented that all this was happening due to “mismarketing” by the foruma-milk producers and lauded the Pakistan Paediatric Association for fighting against powerful people and promoting what was beneficial to the children and mothers in Pakistan.

“They [formula-milk producers] are very powerful people with a lot of resources and the only thing that can prevent the use of their influence is the tightening of laws and awareness among the civil society, physicians and common people.”

Speaking at the sensitisation workshop on breastfeeding, eminent pediatrician and physician Prof Iqbal Memon said Pakistan could save millions of dollars of foreign exchange by promoting infant feeding as the most of the formula milk was being imported from abroad and the country was spending heavy foreign exchange on its imports.

“On the other hand, a family in the rural area of the country spends 38 percent of the their monthly income on the formula milk to feed their children, while in urban areas, 23 percent of the income of a family is spent on the feeding of their child through formula milk. Prof Memon said bottle-feeding was an expensive method to feed children and a lot of money could be saved through breastfeeding.

PPA Sindh President and NICH Director Prof Jamal Raza said mother’s feed was the best vaccine that could prevent an infant from getting pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and many other diseases, which caused infant and child mortality in Pakistan. Unfortunately, educated mothers were more reluctant to give their own feed to their children as compared uneducated women or those living in rural areas in Sindh, he said.

Prof Raza deplored that despite the availability of free vaccines in the immunization programme of Pakistan, the preventable disease of pneumonia was killing around 92,000 children of under five years of age annually. As per World Health Organisation estimates, pneumonia accounts for 16 per cent of the child deaths, making it the leading killer of children less than five years of age globally.

Several other experts advised the mothers to resort to breastfeeding as this was the most natural way of protecting their children from diseases and mortality as well as for protecting themselves from various diseases, including breast cancer, obesity and many hormonal imbalances.

The seminar was also addressed by Dr Zahoor Baloch, Program Manager Nutrition Support Program, Dr Jalal Akbar, Dr Khalid Shafi, Dr Nusrat Shah, Dr Aisha Mehnaz and several others. 

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