January 14th 2020 Freetown: The Cabinet of Sierra Leone has approved the commencement of the drafting of a National Code for the Regulation of the Marketing of Breastmilk substitute on Wednesday 8th Jan, 2020.
Over a decade now, FOCUS 1000 and its partner have been advocating to the Government for Sierra Leone to have a law that will regulate the sale and marketing of infant formula.
African countries such as Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Guinea etc. have strong laws put in place by their Governments for the regulation of the marketing of breastmilk substitutes.
It could be recalled that in 1981 the United Nation passed a Resolutions on International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes by it Executive Board at its sixty-seventh session of World Health Assembly on the infant and young child feeding. WHO and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) have for many years emphasized the importance of maintaining the practice of breast-feeding and of reviving the practice where it is in decline as a way to improve the health and nutrition of infants and young children.
According to the “Marketing of breast-milk substitutes: national implementation of the international code: status report 2016” done by WHO, UNICEF and IBFAN, as of March 2016, 135 out of 194 countries had some form of legal measure in place covering some provisions of the Code. This represents significant progress since 2011 when only 103 countries had relevant legal measures in place.
Countries continue to face significant challenges in ensuring effective implementation of the Code, challenges include a lack of political will to legislate and enforce the Code, continued interference from manufacturers and distributors in governments’ efforts to initiate or strengthen Code monitoring and enforcement measures, lack of sufficient data and expertise on Code-related matters, absence of coordination among responsible stakeholders, and limited national and international resources for legislation, monitoring and enforcement.
The Sierra Leone Code Committee has welcomed this latest move taken by the current Government for giving Cabinet approval for the drafting of the Code Bill for it to be tabled in parliament. This press has learned that the Committee is planning to meet by the end of this week to map out key actions moving forward for the country to have national laws that will regulate the sale and marketing of infant formula.
The importance of breast milk
Breast milk helps keep your baby healthy. It supplies all the necessary nutrients in the proper proportions. It protects against allergies, sickness, and obesity. It protects against diseases, like diabetes and cancer. It protects against infections, like ear infections.
In Sierra Leone however, only 52.2 per cent of children are fully breastfed according to the Multiple Indicator Survey, 2017. This data indicates that over 40 per cent of children are denied access to exclusive breastfeeding.