19% nations fully implement WHO’s infant formula Code

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Only 37 of the 199 countries completely adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, a World Health Organization report published ahead of World Breastfeeding Week reveals.

Breastfeeding is indeed the best source of nourishment in infants. It not only boosts child health but also cuts the likelihood of a range of diseases in later life.

Breastfed babies are less likely to be diabetic, overweight or obese as adults. Also, they perform better in intelligence tests. However, globally only 38 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months.

“Nearly all mothers are physically able to breastfeed and will do so if they have accurate information and support,” said Carmen Casanovas, an expert on breastfeeding with WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development. “But in many cases, women are discouraged from doing so and are misled to believe that they are giving their children a better start in life by buying commercial substitutes.”

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes is a health policy framework that promotes breastfeeding globally.

Formed in 1981 by the World Health Assembly (WHA) of the World Health Organization (WHO, the Code restricts the marketing of breastmilk substitutes to ensure that feeding mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding.

“Full implementation of the Code is vital for reducing or eliminating all forms of promotion of breast-milk substitutes, including direct and indirect promotion to pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children,” said Dr Casanovas.

According to the latest World Health Organization report, only 37 of the 199 countries (19 per cent) have enacted legislation implementing all of the provisions of the Code.

Other member countries, however, have implemented the Code in parts.

While 69 countries fully prohibit advertising of breast-milk substitutes, 62 countries have completely banned the distribution of free samples or low-cost supplies for health services.
64 nations have completely prohibited distribution of gifts of any kind from relevant manufacturers to health workers and 83 countries have made labels highlighting the importance and superiority of breastfeeding on breast-milk substitute cartons mandatory.

However, only 45 countries have reported having an implementation and monitoring system in place.

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