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BMS Code: NAFDAC restates benefits of breastfeeding for child’s survival, cognitive development

*Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control says breastfeeding remains a ‘high impact, low technology, cost-effective’ intervention for child’s survival, optimal cognitive development, and sustainability

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control is intensifying the enforcement of the prohibition contained in the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitute (BMS), as adopted by the World Health Assembly 1981.

ConsumerConnect reports the International Code is designed to promote, protect and support optimal breastfeeding practices.

The Nigerian regulatory agency affirms it has prohibited the promotion and sales of Breastmilk substitutes (BMS) in health facilities across the country.

Mrs. Rahila Maishanu, BMS Desk Officer, Kaduna Office of NAFDAC, noted this in Zaria, Kaduna State, at a one-day training programme for health workers on the BMS Code and its compliance in Nigeria.

The Kaduna State Primary Health Care Board organised the training in collaboration with NAFDAC, and supported by a global nutrition initiative, Alive & Thrive, under its Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition programme, agency report said.

Maishanu stressed the BMS prohibition is in accordance with the International Code for Marketing of BMS, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to promote protect and support optimal breastfeeding practices.

The NAFDAC BMS Desk Officer, also described breastfeeding as a “high impact, low technology, cost-effective” intervention for child survival and optimal cognitive development and sustainability.

She, however, said sadly, the practice was still very low with a national average for early initiation of breastfeeding at 23 percent, while Kaduna state was at 13 percent.

The national average for exclusive breastfeeding stood at 34.4 percent with Kaduna State a little bit higher at 41 percent, stated Maishanu.

Factors responsible for low national average

According Mrs. Maishanu, part of the problem is traceable to the aggressive marketing and promotion of BMS among mothers in communities including health facilities across the country.

She, nonetheless, reemphasised that the BMS Code and National Regulation, among other things, prohibited the promotion of BMS and related products, including the distribution of free or low-cost supplies in health facilities in Nigeria.

The Kaduna BMS Desk Officer further stated: “It also prohibits the advertisement of BMS and related products such as feeding bottles, cereals, teats, pacifiers, breast bumps, juice, and baby teas among others to the public or at health facilities.

“The Code equally prohibits the provision of samples of any milk or infant formula marketed for feeding infants and young children and related products to pregnant women, new mothers, or their families.”

Maishanu also said: “There shall be no company sales representatives to advise mothers or provide gifts or personal samples to health workers.

“No healthcare facility shall allow manufacturers or distributors of the BMS to use their facilities for commercial events, contests, or campaigns among other prohibitions.”

Regulator’s responsibility on International Code of Marketing BMS

Maishanu as well disclosed that NAFDAC is empowered by law to implement, monitor, and enforce the provision of the International Code of Marketing BMS, under the provisions of the NAFDAC Act Cap N1 LFN 2004.

She said that the BMS Code served as a weapon to protect breastfeeding from the negative impact of aggressive advertising and marketing techniques by infant food manufacturers on breastfeeding practices.

The International Code was developed as a global public health strategy to protect breastfeeding mothers from the aggressive marketing of baby foods and ensure safe feeding and better nutrition for babies, she stated.

Maishanu disclosed: “The implementation and enforcement of the Code is aimed at protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding, by ensuring appropriate marketing and distribution of BMS.

“The aim is to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of optimal Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) for child survival, growth, and development.”

NAFDAC stressed that it was also to “protect breastfeeding from the inappropriate marketing practices of Infant food manufacturers and distributors and to build the confidence of mothers to adopt best IYCF practices.

“It also ensures the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when necessary, by providing adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.”

She, therefore, emphasised the need for the health workers to arm themselves with knowledge about the code and the national regulation to be able to do what is best for the Nigerian  children.

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