(Friday 14 July, 2017) A group of Parliamentarians supported by representatives from national and international Agencies, have formed a 9man committee to accelerate the pace towards the introduction of a national Code to regulate the sale of breastmilk substitutes across the nation. They also pledged to educate their constituencies on the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding to the child, mother and the family. These announcements came at the end of the 2-day dialogue on the status of child nutrition and the challenges posed to the life time mental and physical development of the country’s future – its children.
Credit Photo: FOCUS 1000
Parliamentarians, Government and NGO officials at workshop on Protecting Breastfeeding Practices in Sierra Leone.
At the workshop at Tokeh beach, the group of officials of the Parliamentary Health and Legislative Committees, Directorate of Food & Nutrition, the Ministry of Health & Sanitation, the SUN Secretariat, Action Against Hunger, UNICEF and partners reviewed the situation of nutrition among children in Sierra Leone and revisited the draft Code on Breastmilk substitutes.
It was unanimously agreed that the current rates of under-nutrition, malnutrition and stunting which exceed global minimum standards would have long term damaging impact on the physical and mental development of children and consequently undermine the quality of the nation’s human resources. It was also noted that in a country like Sierra Leone where barely 3 out 5 households (DHS, 2013) access safe drinking water, exposing babies to formula substitutes mixed with unsafe water often led diarrohea that further undermine their health status and even contribute to high level of child deaths.
In confirming the relevance of the meeting and the need for more discussion on the issue of breastfeeding, the Deputy Speaker of the House of Parliament Hon. Chernor Marju Bah stated “… Encouraging all MPs to disseminate the information in the materials provided today will be one way of supporting this very important issue. The more we spread the knowledge, the more we get people to learn the better the chances of changing attitudes. Because working mothers have to rush to the office, they have only 3 months maternity leave. How can we support that mother to continue breastfeeding for those first 6 months? As lawmakers, we need to look into this. If we want to protect breastfeeding we must look into these laws to protect the mothers.”
Photo Credit: FOCUS 1000 Hon. Chernor Marju Bah Deputy Speaker of Parliament
The participants did however take time to also recognize that exclusive breastfeeding rates for children under 6 months have increased by over 10 fold in Sierra Leone from 4% in 2000 to over 58 % by 2014.
This high-level advocacy workshop, which was coordinated by Focus 1000, in collaboration with the SUN Secretariat, Directorate of Food and Nutrition and Action Against Hunger has created a new platform to engage and partner with parliamentarians on different aspects of child and maternal health across the nation.
According to the FOCUS 1000 Chief Executive Officer, Mohammad Bailor Jalloh “Exclusive breastfeeding during the first 6 months of life, offers every child a foundation for physical and mental development that affects his/her general wellbeing for life and contributes to his/her fullest potential”.