Tag Archives: Infant formula

An Optimistic View of Breastfeeding in Ethiopia

Throughout my travels to health facilities in Ethiopia last week with Save the Children I was heartened to see so many positive messages about breastfeeding on posters and printed materials for mothers to take home.  I also saw several mothers breastfeeding their babies everywhere we went.

In Ethiopia 52% of babies are put to the breast within one hour of being born and 52% of babies are exclusively breastfed through six months according to Save the Children’s State of the World’s Mothers 2012 report. While that number can definitely be improved Ethiopia has been given a “good” rating by Save the Children along with countries such as Rwanda and Eritrea that have percentages for the aforementioned breastfeeding indicators around the 70% range. Only four countries have been given “very good” ratings and they are Malawi, Madagascar, Peru and the Solomon Islands.

Mothers at Health Center, Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, only 51% of  babies are breastfed with complementary foods from 6-9 months, but from 20 – 23 months 82% of all toddlers are still being breastfed. Ethiopia was also given a “good” rating for policy support of the WHO code (International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes).

What I did not like seeing at a government-run hospital’s maternity ward was a promotion for Pfizer Nutrition infant formula. That means a pharmaceutical rep came into the maternity ward and influenced health workers to advise mothers to use infant formula. With a child mortality rate that is not on track to reach Millennium Development Goal 4 in 2015, promoting anything other than exclusive breastfeeding is detrimental to the overall health of Ethiopia’s children. In fact, in Africa babies who are breastfed are six times more likely to survive the first few months of life than non-breastfed babies, according to State of the World’s Mothers 2012.

Formula Marketing in Bishoftu Hospital

Ethiopia should take a page out of Kenya‘s book and enact a new law regarding advertising of  infant formula in health settings. Kenya’s new law now forbids kickbacks from pharmaceutical reps to health workers.

Photos: Jennifer James

Exclusive Breastfeeding Increases in Kenya

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is what will keep her the most healthy. There is good news out of Kenya. Exclusive breastfeeding has increased to 32% from a mere 13% in 2003. Exclusive breastfeeding helps keep babies healthy and it also provides a buffer for mother to child HIV transmission by four times.

In September Kenya passed a new law regarding advertising infant formula particularly in health settings. Health workers are also no longer allowed to receive kickbacks in any form from formula companies. This is very important because of the influence health workers have on their patients. The new law regarding health workers includes forbids the following.

A health worker or a proprietor shall not:

a) accept from a manufacturer or a distributor of a designated or complementary food product –

(i) a gift;

(ii) financial assistance;

(iii) fellowship, scholarship, research grant, study tour, funding for meetings and conferences, seminars or continuing education courses; or

(iv) sample of a designated or complementary food product;

(b) distribute or display a designated or complementary food product; or

(c) demonstrate the use of a designated or complementary food product to mothers or members of their families unless in such special cases of need as may be determined by the Cabinet Secretary or his representative, in writing.

The new law also requires formula packaging to include appropriate risks of using formula. We cannot forget that having access to clean water is also an issue in Kenya, so using formula for a baby can potentially be life threatening.

According to WHO data the northeastern part of Kenya sees the largest percentage of exclusive breastfeeding through six months. The coastal part of Kenya logs the smallest percentage of exclusive breastfeeding.

In addition to increased exclusive breastfeeding, Kenya is also seeing an increase in babies breastfeeding within the first hour after delivery. According to World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative in Kenya (2012) KDHS shows an improvement on the percentage of babies’ breastfed within one hour of birth from 52.3% (2003) to 58.1% (2008/09). However, this indicator has stagnated between 52% and 58% since 1993 with 2003 registering the lowest prevalence.

To learn more about Kenya’s exclusive breastfeeding increase visit www.irinnews.org.

Photo: United Nations/ Photo by Albert González Farran