A few weeks after Peter died – on 7th January – we got the news that one of Peter’s friends, Gerson da Cunha had died. Gerson was an Indian/Goan high level communicator, who worked for UNICEF Brasil in early 80´s and helped build social mobilization actions around breastfeeding. He was behind some of the amazing initiatives such as postmen and firemen promoting breastfeeding, short breastfeeding messages on every bank receipt etc Gerson received a medal of recognition for his work during the third World Breastfeeding Conference (WBC3) in Rio. Here’s a picture I took when we all had lunch together at the British Library in London – I think this was in 2000.
We were saddened to hear about the sudden death of one of Baby Milk Action’s long-time advisors, Peter Greaves. He was to be 90 in March but showed no signs of slowing down or aging when he died on 16th December 2021 after a sudden illness. We feel his loss hugely.
He is survived by his wife Chloe, son Tim, daughter Kate, daughter-in-law Noreen, son-in-law Mitch and grandchildren Ciara, Conor, Tim & Ben. The funeral service was held on Jan 5th 2022. (see Zoom link Meeting ID: 845 4716 3680 Passcode: 238974– ) Below are some of the tributes that explain a little of why he was so loved and respected. Please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to add something.
Peter’s wide-ranging interests – from Rwanda to nutrition to breastfeeding to the environment – were rooted in his passion for human rights and social justice. As Regina Shrimpton says, he was ‘always on the cusp of humanity’s events’ and ready to do whatever he could to help. But he was also a wonderful friend, full of humour and joy about all the things that really matter.
As Peter Adamson says, Peter recognised long before many others that a handful of low-cost interventions including immunisation, oral rehydration and breastfeeding could prevent or treat a significant proportion of deaths among the world’s children – as a result Baby Milk Action and IBFAN enjoyed decades of Peter’s support as advisor, supporter, networker, proof-reader and campaigner. Peter’s impact on our campaign was invariably behind the scenes but hugely effective, not least because he understood that misleading and predatory marketing has to be stopped.
To give just two of many examples. Peter was one of the 1990 Innocenti Team that formulated global initiatives to improve breastfeeding practices in maternity policies and practices – and it was his idea to distill the recommendations into Ten Steps. The Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding became the basis for the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and continues to be the global standard that helped transform maternity care. (see Margaret Kyenkya’s tribute below for more).
Peter was UNICEF’s nutrition advisor in New York in 1991 when the General Synod of the Church of England voted to endorse the Boycott, and his advice to Synod Member Dr Susan Cole-King, was key to an almost unanimous vote in favour. Thank you Peter. I know my writings will be poorer without your oversight!
Margaret Kyenkya-Isabitye The news of Dr. Peter Greaves passing on hit me really hard because I have not spoken with him in a long time. I kept putting it off… and now I wonder whether he knew how appreciated he was as that “diplomat,” as the girls in the nutrition section called him, the counsellor, to whom each of us ran to when the tough got going, the real backbone, the glue, that held the Nutrition Section at UNICEF HQ together during the 7 years I was there (1987-1994). He was the guy that took on the tough issues, the one who originated, edited every document that we produced., putting jnto proper english everything team members wrote. Do people know that when the bickering WHO and UNICEF team spent a whole day and night trying, and failing to come up with the Innocenti Declaration for Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding (1990), Peter took on the task, prepared a draft in 2 hours, cleared the language with UNICEF team, and I watched in awe, as he proceeded to calmly and diplomatically get all the bickering parties to sign off on the document that was finally printed. And he smiled and told stories through it all. His intellect, honesty, kindness, all with a humble approach was a gift to all of us. As a supervisor, he set really high standards for me, and yet proceeded to teach me to reach them. Till we meet again Peter.
Sir Richard Jolly, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, deputy executive director of UNICEF and Coordinator of the UNDP’s Human Development Report. Sad, sad news. Peter was wonderfully committed, engaged and active almost to the end, urging us on with emails and other up-to-date encouragements, long after he did the same in UNICEF. Please gently express deep sympathies to Chloe. Her loss will be great. And in answer to Linda Melvern: You are so right about Peter and about his strong support for you and your outspoken writings about Rwanda. He was not afraid to be full out for causes he believed in. He will be sorely missed.
Kul Chandra Gautam, former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations: So very sad to learn about the passing of Peter Greaves. He was a teacher and mentor to many of us on matters of nutrition. I admired his principled and uncompromising commitment to breastfeeding while some others were swayed by the deceptive but powerful lobbying by the infant formula companies. Beyond nutrition, Peter proved to be a very effective leader on the broader child survival and development front, particularly during his tenure as UNICEF Representative in Brazil. He continued his quiet activism in support of nutrition and breastfeeding even after his retirement from UNICEF. My sincere condolences to Peter’s family. May Peter’s soul rest in eternal peace. www.kulgautam.org twitter.com/kulcgautam email@example.com
Anthony Kennedy: Dear Kul, Though your news is not welcome in the cheery sense, I appreciate and thank you for informing me. I can still call to mind meeting Peter and Chloe Greaves. I happened to be in New Delhi and they had just arrived at the UNICEF office on Jor Bagh, where Peter had just arrived to start his first day with UNICEF in India. We became friends, though long distance friends, and nourished that friendship whenever we were in the same place at the same time. Peter was committed, effective and dogged in his promotion of child nutrition. I recall an anecdote told to me at second hand of Peter’s florid face while on a field trip in India and in the midst of a group of desperately malnourished children, he had to explain the difference between marasmus and kwashiorkor to a local health official. Peter was yet another terrific UNICEF colleague. Tony
Gabrielle Palmer: I can only echo everything that has been said already. Peter was a steadfast friend and supporter of all righteous causes. He was exceptional in that he could give guidance in a uniquely subtle way. He was never pompous and always modest. I learned so much from him. He critiqued and proof read some of my stuff in the most supportive way. He would tell me about what other friends were doing and how I would love their books, and he was right. His lovely low key natural style was so refreshing. I loved getting his emails and occasional phone calls. His enthusiasm for Greta Thunberg and the environmental movement was so refreshing when many of his peers were grumbling. I feel privileged to have known him and will miss him dreadfully as all of you must do.
John Donohue Learning of Peter’s passing brought back memories of the many times our paths crossed over the years. Peter was a truly lovely man with amazing professional competence who always focused on improving the nutrition of children who needed help. And was always an erudite joy to work with. Rosa and I wish Chloe and her family our condolences and um abraco forte. firstname.lastname@example.org
Baquer Namazi. I am a former colleague and friend and was very saddened to learn about [Peter’s] passing away. When I returned to UNICEF in 1984, based on my experience in my own country, I was trying hard to promote the cause of nomadic tribes, one of the major deprived and neglected groups. Peter was one of the first persons who took my work seriously, helped raised seed funding from the JNSP programme he was promoting and helped in editing my communications with potential partners. I am reminded of the following saying shared with me by one of my Christian teachers. He said: IF DEATH IS A SORROW FOR US, THE HOPE OF A BETTER LIFE IS OUR CONSOLATION. May Peter’s soul rest in eternal peace and may the Almighty bestow strength and fortitude upon both of you dear ones to bear his loss.
Regina Shrimpton I remember Peter as the UNICEF representative who decided Roger was worthy of his first contract with UNICEF in 1983, to develop a primary health care plan to tackle the appalling infant mortality rate in the poorest Brazilian state, Maranhão. The project was eventually implemented, and after a year there was a reduction of 33% in infant mortality. The program expanded into several other Brazilian states and, eventually, became a joint program shared by the central Brazilian government and UNICEF. That, in itself, showed Peter’s vision and willingness to act, even though his stay in Brazil was short-lived. As our paths diverged, we met sporadically through the years: New York, Jakarta, London. He met Roger more often at international professional gatherings. Peter was always a pleasure: courteous, erudite, always willing to help, and, with a glass in his hand, humorous with his stories from distant shores. We met for the last time for Sunday lunch in London, where he mentioned he had shifted his greatest interest to climate change. He was always on the cusp of humanity’s events and, again, he showed us the way. It was a privilege to meet Peter and we’ll keep memories of him in our hearts. Will be thinking of you and wishing you strength at this difficult time.
Maryse Arendt. Luxembourg: Hello This is a real loss! Gabrielle Palmer and Marina recommended that I interview him for a further Journal of Human Lactation interview but he declined, so there will be no published testimony about his important work for breastfeeding protection!