Sunday, July 10, 2016

Indonesia - Public Health Reform Needed to Reach Breast-Feeding Goals: Unicef Indonesia

Jakarta. More than 2.5 million of the 5 million babies born in Indonesia each year do not fully benefit from breastfeeding during their early years of life due to the mass advertising of breast-milk substitutes, a recent report from the United Nation Children's Fund found.

“There has been important progress in breastfeeding rates in recent years. However, millions of babies miss out on this best possible start in life because parents receive conflicting information about what’s best for their young children,” Unicef Indonesia's chief of nutrition Harriet Torlesse said in a statement on Friday (13/05).

Babies are breastfed for the first six months without additional water or other foods, she said. For the next 18 months, breastfeeding should be continued alongside the introduction of other safe and nutritionally adequate foods.

Unicef said only 42 percent of infants under 6 months old are exclusively breastfed in Indonesia, although it is recorded that most babies — around 96 percent — are breastfed by their mothers.

However, only 55 percent of the babies are still given breast milk when they approach their second birthday, falling well short of the idea.

The report, published jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO, Unicef and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), showed massive promotion and advertising of milk formulas and milk targeted to children under the age of three is partly to blame.

Torlesse said legislation is needed to promote breastfeeding by panning the advertising of breast-milk substitute products.

“While we should continue our efforts to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates, we must also protect, promote and support continued breastfeeding until children are at least two years old,” Torlesse said.

Of the 194 countries analyzed in the report, Indonesia is one of 135 countries which have some form of legal measure related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and relevant resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly.

Current laws prohibit the promotion of formula milk to infants under six months in health facilities. Nutritionists and health facilities are not permitted to sell, give or promote formula to under six month olds.

There are some restrictions on the labeling and advertising of milk products targeting infants under a year old.

However, the 2016 Access to Nutrition Index reported over 1,000 incidents of non-compliance with the Code by various manufacturers and distributors.

“This is deeply troubling because incorrect and misleading information through advertising and promotion by baby milk companies and retailers confuses parents and undermines their confidence in breastfeeding,” Torlesse said.

The breast-milk substitute business is believed to reach Rp 25.8 trillion ($ 1.9 million) in Indonesia this year.

A recent study from Unicef, the University of Padjajaran and Alive & Thrive showed the country would save Rp 20 trillion each year in health care costs and wages. It also revealed that improved breastfeeding in Indonesia could save 5,377 child lives and around Rp 3 trillion in health costs every year by preventing childhood illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea.

In addition, boosting breastfeeding could save Rp 17 trillion in wages each year due to improvements in cognitive ability and increased earnings in later life.

To be in line with Health Ministry recommendations on breastfeeding, the scope of the national legislation must be extended to include the promotion and advertising of all milk products that are specifically marketed for feeding infants and young children up to the age of three years.

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