23 November 2017
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Monday, 31 July 2017 14:54

Breast milk substitute sellers not adhering to regulations

Written by  Fostina Mkandawire

Lilongwe, July 31: Principal Nutritionist in the Ministry of Health, Sylvester Kathumba says shops which sell breast milk substitutes in the country are not adhering to rules and regulations that govern the selling of formula milk on the market.

Kathumba says rules and regulations that govern the selling of breast milk do not allow shops to offer discounts or put formula milk on promotion let alone place adverts in the media to market the formula.

He said even though breast milk substitutes are being sold in the country, they are supposed to always carry messages on the containers that highlight the importance of breast milk over formula milk and that the containers should always carry vernacular language and not international languages that the majority of people in the country do not understand.

Kathumba was speaking at a media briefing in Mponela ahead of the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) which takes place on 1st to 7th   August annually. The main event will take place in Balaka with the aim of promoting, supporting and encouraging breastfeeding throughout the world.

“Shops that market breast milk substitutes should be reported to police or the Ministry of Health so that they get punished because formulas are discouraged to be marketed in this country and should always be placed before breast milk,” he said.

He said women are encouraged to exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months and should not add any substitutes to the breast milk until the baby reaches six months. He said adding any substitutes can invite germs to the baby’s digestive system because it is not mature enough to ably digest solid foods until six months.

“If a woman is working they should squeeze breast milk for their babies so that the baby should continue enjoying the benefits of breast milk even in the absence of their mother. Nurses should teach women how best to go about breast milk squeezing and the hygiene factors of best practices of breast squeezing,” he said.

He revealed that the Ministry of Health is currently consulting stakeholders to see how best they can review the rules and regulations of selling breast milk substitutes in the country because the current guidelines are archaic and offer lenient punishment to perpetrators.

“The current rules and regulations that are there do not offer stiff punishment in terms of fines to shop owners because they are old and were put in place at a time before many people started using formula milk,” he said.

He said through the World Breastfeeding Week, the Ministry of Health seeks to create awareness among policy makers and communities on continued breastfeeding and the need to put in place policies and legislation that promote continued breastfeeding, reinforce the effectiveness of emergency response through promotion of breastfeeding as a life saving intervention.

Kathumba said the Malawi 2017 WBW commemorations aim at drawing attention to the role of health professionals, peer counselors and community workers in supporting mothers to establish and carry on breastfeeding beyond the health facility.

This year’s WBW will be celebrated under the theme; “Sustaining breastfeeding together- sustainable partnership and the rule of law” which is a continuation of WBW 2016 which marked a new start of inclusion or aligning breastfeeding with sustainable development goals (SDGs).  

WBW was first celebrated in 1992, and is celebrated in over 170 countries endorsed by World Health Organization, UNICEF and other UN agencies and it unites breastfeeding advocates and governments.

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