Regional Committee for Europe: Slovenia calls for support and protection for women who want to breastfeed in emergencies.
Astana, Kazakhstan, 24–26 October 2023
Health ministers and high-level delegates from the 53 Member States of the WHO European Region, as well as representatives of partner organizations and civil society, will meet in Astana, Kazakhstan, on 24–26 October 2023 for the 73rd session of the WHO Regional Committee for Europe (RC73).
In 2023, WHO marks its 75th anniversary, 45 years since the signing of the historic Alma-Ata Declaration on primary health care (PHC), and the mid-point of the European Programme of Work (EPW) 2020–2025 – “United Action for Better Health in Europe”. RC73 will therefore be an opportunity for delegates to reflect on the current state of health and well-being across the Region, take stock of progress in delivering the EPW, celebrate public health milestones over the past 75 years, and discuss what is needed to address current and future challenges.
Statement by Slovenia on Health Emergency Preparedness
…Thank you and your team for the tireless efforts in responding to the emergencies in our region, which stem from different sources- from infectious disease outbreaks, natural disasters, to conflicts. An important aspect of responding to emergencies is not only to respond to the acute crisis, but to adopt a dual-track approach, which also includes a continuous strengthening of the health system, with a focus on primary care. A strong health infrastructure is an important factor for social cohesion and economic prosperity. Therefore, we must invest in improving it also while responding to viruses, earthquakes, and even armed conflicts.
We must not forget about the continued care for people living with chronic conditions, as well as prevention and health promotion- for example it is critically important to support and protect women who want to breastfeed – a practice that provides food, nurturing care, immune support and is a lifeline in emergencies. We need to think of how to better support such measures as they importantly contribute to the resilience of our systems and people when it counts the most. Thank you.
These are the key points that IBFAN is raising with Member States
At this time when conflicts and climate change are exacerbating food insecurity and malnutrition, it is essential to support and protect women who want to breastfeed – a resilient practice that provides food, nurturing care, immune support and is a lifeline in emergencies.
Pre-preparedness plans must follow the IFE Operational Guidance, and include appropriate training, alongside Conflicts Interest safeguards, a One Health approach and Baby Friendly implementation. This is important not just for disasters, but also for ‘normal ‘ times.
All too often emergency responses are characterized by influxes of unsolicited donations of baby feeding products in violation of all UN recommendations – such donations can do more harm than good in emergencies. Appeals that promote ultra-processed fortified products as magic bullets with no mention of breastfeeding are also problematic, misleading the public and undermining parents’ confidence in real food.
The European region is an important player and alongside UN and humanitarian agencies should be using their considerable diplomatic influence at Codex and all global fora to challenge the corporate-led food system that has done so much harm to the ecosystem and bio-diverse sustainable foods.
We strongly urge Member States to support the adoption of a Resolution to support WHO’s forthcoming Digital Marketing Guidance.