Augustine Musah, secretary-general of the Scaling Up Nutrition/Civil Society Alliance of Liberia (SUNCSAL), has said Liberia is the only country in the sub-region that is yet to domesticate the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
Making the the disclosure at a one day Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) multi-stakeholders platform meeting held at a resort in Monrovia, Musah said that the World Health Assembly, in 1981, adopted the WHO Breast Milk Code, which states that there should be absolutely no promotion of breast milk substitutes, bottles and teats to the general public. It also suggested that neither health facilities nor health professionals should have a role in promoting breast milk substitutes, and that free samples should not be provided to pregnant women, new mothers or families.
According to him, the aim of adopting the code is to protect and promote breastfeeding, safe and adequate nutrition for infants and to ensure the proper use of breast-milk substitutes.
Musah pointed out that process of creating the awareness was done through the provision of adequate information on appropriate infant feeding, and the regulation of the marketing of breast milk alternatives, adding, “in subsequent years additional resolutions have further defined and strengthened the code.”
In Musah’s view, the adoption of the code into national legislation, is the responsibility of every government. He said since 1981, about 84 countries have enacted legislation implementing all or many of the provisions of the code, and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions.
While providing more updates on SUNCSAL’s activities to participants at a recent meeting, Musah said in addition to the 84 countries, 14 others have draft laws pending adoption with the latest being the state of the code that provides an overview of all the countries.
“United Nations Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) is working with legislators and lawyers to ensure that the code and maternity protection laws are implemented in more countries,” he said.
According to him, the code focuses on several other areas, including information, education, the general public, mothers, health care system, health workers, labeling, company employees, quality, implementation and monitoring.
Musah said the main points in the WHO International Code of Breast-milk substitutes is to eliminate advertising of breast-milk substitutes, and other related products to the public in any place for instance, clinics, stores or shops, etc.
Some of the main points in the WHO Code includes no free samples to mothers or their families, no promotion of products, that is no product displays, posters, calendars, or distribution of promotional materials, and also no donations of free or subsidized supplies of breast-milk substitutes or related products in any part of the health care system.