Home Health & Living NAFDAC reiterates exclusive breastfeeding to enhance newborns’ health

NAFDAC reiterates exclusive breastfeeding to enhance newborns’ health

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The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has reiterated the need for Nigerian nursing mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding of their infants for the first six months of life to improve the health status of their newborns.

The agency disclosed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) global target for exclusive breastfeeding is 50 per cent by 2025, while the demographic and health survey indicates that only 28.7 per cent of nursing mothers embrace exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria.

NAFDAC’s Director General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye provided this information in Lagos at a stakeholders’ engagement with the Association of Infant Food Manufacturers and Marketers in Nigeria (AIFMN) on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.

She emphasised that NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the code as the agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

Exclusive breastfeeding – defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast milk for the first six months of life (no other food or water) – has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention. It is part of optimal breastfeeding practices, which also include initiation within one hour of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond.

The NAFDAC boss pointed out that exclusive breastfeeding is the best start in life and the cornerstone of child survival and health because it provides essential, irreplaceable nutrition as nature intended for a child’s optimal growth and development.

Adeyeye, who was represented by the Director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN), Mrs. Eva Edwards, noted that inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes contributes to undermining efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration.

According to her, the stakeholders’ engagement with AIFMN is aimed at fostering fruitful dialogue on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code) and the National Regulations on the Marketing of Infant and Young Children Food and other Designated Products (registration, sales etc.).

She explained that the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, including the subsequent relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions, aim to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

“We cannot over-emphasize the significance of breastfeeding in the context of maternal and child health”, she said, adding that recognizing the irreplaceable impact of breastfeeding on the health and development of infants and young children all over the world, and for the purpose of the engagement, infants and young children in Nigeria, NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the Code as the Agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

She explained that the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Code and national regulations covers the spectrum of actors in the infant and young child feeding space (and their actions): these include manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and other stakeholders.

“You will recall that the sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, which held in 2016 adopted Resolution WHA69.9 which urged Member States and health professionals to implement the recommendations in the accompanying WHO Guidance on Ending Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children” Adeyeye said, adding that the Guidance seeks to ensure that financial support for infant and young child health programmes and workers do not create conflicts of interest (COI).

It states that “companies that market foods for infants and young children should not sponsor meetings of health professionals and scientific meetings and that health workers, health systems, and health professional associations should not allow such sponsorship”.

The NAFDAC boss further said that the guidance also notes that health professionals and facilities are often targeted and influenced by the infant and young child food industry through promotion, relationships, and incentives, and that these incentives create conflicts of interest and can result in the loss of independence, integrity, and public credibility.

She said a conflict of interest arises every time anyone (including a non-professional health worker or health educator) whose duty it is to promote breastfeeding accepts some kind of gift or benefit from a company.

“Last year, the WHO, together with a Technical Advisory Group (TAG), in recognition of the current trend of digital promotion of BMS, developed the guidance on digital marketing technologies to address these new marketing tools that are powerfully persuasive and often easily recognizable as breast-milk substitute promotions”, she said, adding that digital marketing can indeed deliver breast-milk substitutes promotions covertly.

As regulators, she said that “we welcome the development of the guidance document, having dealt with issues of digital promotions of breast-milk substitutes”.

As manufacturers, representatives of manufacturers and marketers, she said, “you are aware of your responsibility to align your practices with the provisions of the BMS Code and national regulations, recognizing that inappropriate promotions have a significant impact on infant health, nutrition, and development”.

She said the agency is fully committed to protecting and promoting breastfeeding to address threats that marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) pose to optimal breastfeeding practices.

She noted that the engagement of stakeholders presented a platform for open dialogue, to increase knowledge on the Code, share insights, experiences, and challenges on implementing the Code in Nigeria, adding that “your collaboration and adherence to the BMS Code are instrumental in creating a conducive environment for optimal infant breastfeeding feeding practices and ensuring the wellbeing of future generations of healthy and productive Nigerians”.

Adeyeye reminded them that breast-milk substitutes are legitimate products which should be available for use when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

“Our concern is strictly on inappropriate marketing practices. In the spirit of creating a conducive environment where the health and well-being of mothers and infants are prioritized, I wish us a fruitful and interactive session”, she said.

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