IBFAN statements for the WHO Executive Board Meetings – 24-29th January 2022

See earlier Policy Blog for the Background to the EB Discussion.  All the presentations from IBFAN, Civil Society, Member States and WHO can be seen on the WEBCAST of the EB

Two of our statements are now on You Tube:

Dr Magdalena Whoolery delivers our  one minute statement on Emergencies.

Patti Rundall delivers our statement on the prevention of NCDs.

Agenda Item 21.3  webcast Session 12 WHO reform  Involvement of non-State actors in WHO’s governing bodies  Doc EB150/37 NSA Statement PDF Saturday  29 January  Delivered by Patti Rundall

See website for the statements from the UK, USA and Canada who stressed the need for more meaningful consultation with NSAs  – before decisions are taken and  highlighted the risks of not hearing from the wide variety of NSAs.  Gaudenz Silberschmidt of WHO responded saying that there would be more consultation with NGOs and that individual statements on all issues would be permitted  – even on those with constituency statements. This was one of our main concerns – see below and  letter from 58 NGOs.  

  • Mandatory joint statements meant that for the first time IBFAN made no intervention on the International Code during an important reporting year.
  • Allowing our statement to be moderated by those who may or may not share our aims, would have weakened it and blurred the identities of FENSA’s four NSA groups – perhaps the aim of Multi-stakeholder ideology?
  • WHO’s independence depends on it having a correct Conflict of Interest Policy.  In its absence WHO’s public mandate is in an institutional conflict of interest situation
  • The chaos around the statements showed why ‘Economic Actors’ and their front groups that have no democratic accountability and who undermine regulation of corporate malpractice should not be granted Official Relations in WHO’s governing body. The risks for global health are too great. Please correct this.  Thank you.

Agenda Item 15.1 webcast Session 6  Wednesday 26th January (Morning) Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies. A shortened version delivered by Dr Magdalena Whoolery See YouTube above. IBFAN Emergencies PDF

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this important item.    For over 40 years, IBFAN, the global network of working in over 160 countries, has alerted WHO and Member States to the need for safeguards and laws that protect breastfeeding – a resilient practice that provides food, care, immune support and protection from the worst of emergency conditions.  Protection for breastfeeding should be integrated into the intergovernmental Committee on Emergency Prevention & Management.

The WHO report notes that poor quality information or disinformation is a significant exacerbating factor during health emergencies.  IBFAN and other monitoring shows how, in times of crisis, baby food businesses easily mislead and exploit public fears, with harmful donations and claiming their products build immunity.

We call on WHO to strengthen its own Conflict of Interest safeguards and encourage Member States to prevent commercial infiltration of health policy spaces and the undermining of WHO advice. National COVID-19 guidelines should use basic hygiene rules while supporting skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and breastfeeding even for mothers who are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. Many government newborn care and COVID-19 policies are now barriers to breastfeeding – among countries sampled in a 2020 study, 50% are not recommending breastfeeding, and none are fully aligned with WHO recommendations. This is a serious risk to child survival that must be addressed.

WHO must also help ensure that micronutrient and other interventions during emergencies are not commercially promoted and that they are used only in strictly controlled, appropriately designed programmes that protect breastfeeding and transition to nutritious family foods with psycho-social support for recovery. Interventions should be culturally appropriate and must not undermine sustainable food production, food security and biodiversity. Thank You

Agenda Item 7 Webcast Session 7 Wednesday 26th January Afternoon. Political declaration of the third high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases   read by Patti Rundall (see above). IBFAN NCDs PDF

IBFAN cannot speak on Agenda 17 because of the new rules but appreciates the opportunity to speak on the cross-cutting issue of NCDs:

  • Public health messages are no use if they are undermined by DISINFORMATION. A good example is the predatory marketing and trade of ultra-processed products for babies that confuses, misleads and undermines breastfeeding and healthy child feeding.
  • Please update the NCD Best Buys and stress ‘protection’ and ‘prevention.’ Breastfeeding promotion can backfire and opens the door to exploitation by companies whose budgets dwarf that of health departments. What’s needed is legislation to stop this.
  • Using terms such as ‘partnership’ ’trust’ ‘shared aims’ and ‘values’ when talking about economic actors is naive and blurs their identities and responsibilities. Corporations have no democratic accountability and public health policy decisions should be free of their influence.
  • WHO must urgently correct and strengthen its conflicts of interest policy. Warning only about collaboration only with weapons and tobacco industries is a far too risky model for Member States to follow. Please correct this. Thank you

Agenda item 18. Session 12 Saturday morning (Member States Session 11)

WHO Global Strategy for Food Safety IBFAN Food Safety   Delivered by Dr Magdalena Whoolery

  • In the interests of child health and survival please strengthen the Strategy to protect infants and children from unsafe foods and feeding practices. 
  • Powdered commercial baby milks and ultra-processed foods  provide no protection against disease and no boost to the immune system. 
  • Labelling must explicitly warn that such products are not sterile and may be intrinsically contaminated by pathogens and declare levels of toxic heavy metals. Their use can expose infants and young children to serious consequences, compounded by increasing antibiotic resistance and risks from climate change. 
  • Toxic chemicals in such products, water and feeding equipment put children at risk of cumulative chemical exposures when they provide their major source of nutrition. 
  • To help ensure public trust and credibility, Food safety Systems must be free from commercial influence, and there should be greater protection and support for breastfeeding, that provides anti-infective agents and immune factors to build the immune system.

Agenda Item 17 – Webcast session 11.  Friday Afternoon. Maternal Infant and Young Child Feeding took place on Friday 28th January. 

The Decision on E-commerce was adopted with no amendments:

45. The Board is invited to note the report and its annex; it is further invited to consider the following draft decision:
The Executive Board, having considered the report of the Director-General on maternal, infant and young child nutrition,5 decided to recommend to the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly the adoption of the following decision:

The Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly, having considered the report of the Director-General on maternal, infant and young child nutrition, decided to request the Director-General:

(1) to develop guidance for Member States on regulatory measures aimed at restricting the digital marketing of breastmilk substitutes, so as to ensure that existing and new regulations designed to implement the International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes and relevant Health Assembly resolutions subsequent to its adoption adequately address digital marketing practices;
(2) to report on the performance of the task described in paragraph (1) to the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly in May 2024.


Spanish Translations:

Agenda Item 15.1 – Emergencies:

“IBFAN, una red en más de 160 países, pide una vez más salvaguardas más fuertes para proteger la lactancia materna que es una práctica resiliente que brinda alimento, atención y protección contra las peores condiciones de emergencia. El informe de la OMS señala que la información de mala calidad y la desinformación son un factor agravante muy importante durante las emergencias sanitarias. El monitoreo muestra que las empresas engañan y explotan el miedo del público, donan productos dañinos y dicen que sus productos generan inmunidad. La OMS debe fortalecer sus salvaguardas de Conflicto de interés y ayudar a los gobiernos a detener la infiltración comercial en los espacios de definición de políticas que socavan el asesoramiento de la OMS. Muchas políticas gubernamentales de COVID-19 no están alineadas con las recomendaciones de la OMS y se han convertido en barreras para la lactancia materna. Este es un riesgo grave para la supervivencia infantil. La crisis climática está sobre nosotros. Las intervenciones de micronutrientes y similares durante las emergencias deben estar estrictamente controladas, ser culturalmente apropiadas y no deben socavar la lactancia materna y la producción sostenible de alimentos, la seguridad alimentaria y la biodiversidad.”

Agenda Item 7 – NCDs

IBFAN no podrá hablar durante la discusión del punto de la Agenda 17 del Consejo Ejecutivo de la OMS debido a nuevas reglas, pero agradece la oportunidad de resaltar por escrito las siguientes preocupaciones:
– Los mensajes de salud pública no sirven de nada cuando son socavados por la DESINFORMACIÓN, como la que ejerce la comercialización y el comercio depredador de alimentos y bebidas infantiles ultra procesadas ​​que engañan e influyen gravemente la alimentación de lactantes y niños pequeños y la biodiversidad.

– Las “mejores compras” (Best buys) de Enfermedades No Transmisibles deben actualizarse y enfatizar la protección de la lactancia materna ya que muchas veces el solo promocionar la lactancia materna puede ser contraproducente ya que abre la puerta a la explotación por parte de empresas cuyos presupuestos eclipsan a los departamentos de los sistemas de salud.

– El uso de términos como “asociación”, “confianza”, “objetivos compartidos”, “objetivos comunes” y “valores” en relación con las empresas desdibuja sus identidades y responsabilidades. Las corporaciones no tienen responsabilidad democrática y las decisiones sobre políticas de salud pública deben estar libres de su influencia.

La OMS debe corregir y fortalecer su política de conflictos de interés que actualmente prohíbe la colaboración solo con las industrias de armas y tabaco. Esto es un ejemplo riesgoso que tiene influencia negativa
sobre los Estados miembros.


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