Links to blogs and publications on infant feeding in emergencies (not specific to Ukraine).
Why infants have special needs
Babies have specific nutritional needs and are born with an undeveloped immune system. For infants who are breastfed, breastmilk provides both food and immune support, which protects them from the worst of emergency conditions. However, the situation is very different for babies who are not breastfed. In an emergency, food supplies are disrupted, there may be no clean water with which to make up breastmilk substitutes or to clean feeding implements. Health care systems are invariably stretched past breaking point. This means that babies who are not breastfed are vulnerable to infection and to developing diarrhoea. Babies with diarrhoea easily become malnourished and dehydrated and so are at real risk of death. So whenever there is an emergency, it is extremely important that babies who are already being breastfed continue to be and that babies who are not breastfed re-start breastfeeding or, if this is not possible, are given infant formula in the safest possible way.
Emergency Appeals: getting the message right
What to avoid:
- Messages that suggest that women can’t breastfeed because of stress or malnourishment are not helpful and feed commonly held misconceptions. Mothers need support, protection, encouragement and reassurance – this is far more likely to help them maintain breastfeeding or relactate.
- Calls for donations of breastmilk substitutes and bottles and teats can do more harm than good. Bottle feeding is a huge risk in emergency situations and is unsustainable. If supplies are needed they should be “purchased, distributed and used according to strict criteria.’*
- Baby foods industry claims that they have humanitarian motives. This is all part of a CSR marketing strategy that we call “the Business of Malnutrition.’’
In 1994 we exposed a dreadful TV appeal for Bosnia sponsored by Cow&Gate that totally ignored the risks of bottle-feeding. This campaign resulted in OXFAM, Save the Children and many charities coming together to strengthen and improve their infant feeding in emergencies policies. This led to the formation of Infant Feeding in Emergencies interagency group – hosted by the Emergencies Nutrition Network (ENN).
Since 1999 IBFAN has been a core member of this multi-agency body that has developed numerous resources and international guidance on safer infant feeding in emergencies. Click Here for IFE resources.
Many of the IFE members are also members of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) CLICK HERE.
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the World Health Assembly Resolutions are all the more important in emergencies. Monitoring and reporting Code violations in emergency situations are key components of all emergency responses.