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WHO, UNICEF laud action on infant formula violations

Som Kanika / Khmer Times Share:
A woman breastfeeds her child in Siem Reap city, Siem Reap province. KT

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)  commended the Health Ministry’s crackdown on four companies for violating the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitute.

The four companies are Royal Platinum Co Ltd, Nutrilatt, LMM Distribution and VVH Import Export.

Un Sam Oeurn, Nutrition Officer at Unicef, said yesterday: “Their aggressive marketing conveys the wrong information that breast milk substitutes can replace  mother’s milk”.

The products were also said to contain enough nutrition for the children, which misled mothers into buying them.

A joint statement from WHO and the UNICEF, recently signed by their representatives in Cambodia, as well as Hellen Keller International’s,  stated that the cases were also found to be in violation of Cambodia’s Sub-Decree 133 during the COVID-19 pandemic between March and May this year.

The sub-decree addresses a critical role in promoting and protecting the nutrition and health of children in Cambodia by monitoring and restricting the advertisement, marketing and labelling of infant and young child feeding products, including infant formula and other breast milk substitutes.

“Monetary penalties were imposed upon violators, ranging from $625 to $1,250 depending on how many times they had broken the law,” the statement said.

“We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the government and the Ministry of Health for taking this pivotal action to protect the health and wellbeing of Cambodian children, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. At the same time, we strongly condemn the violators who took advantage of the current situation for their own gain.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic highlights the need for stronger legislation to protect families from false claims about the benefits and safety of breast milk substitutes or aggressive marketing practices that undermine breastfeeding.”

“More actions are required to enforce the call from the WHO, Unicef and the Cambodian Ministry of Health for exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life and continued breastfeeding until two years of age or beyond,” the statement added.

A mother, who declined to be named, said yesterday her son once fell victim to one of the products.

She said she knew of several cases where children became seriously ill after being fed the products.

“In my case, my son suffered from Iron Deficiency Anemia after using Nutrilatt Breast Milk Substitutes. He needed a blood transfusion to save his life,” the mother said.

“This also happened to other children and their mothers and I plan to sign a petition to the Health Ministry to act firmly against such companies.”

Sub-Decree 133 plays a critical role in promoting and protecting the nutrition and health of children in Cambodia.

Since the establishment of the National Oversight Board and the Executive Working Group for Sub-Decree 133 in 2014, the government has worked hard to improve monitoring and enforcement of Sub-Decree 133 despite challenges and limited resources.

According to medical journal The Lancet in 2016, scaling up appropriate breastfeeding practices could prevent an estimated 832,000 child deaths globally each year.

Breastfeeding greatly contributes to children’s physical and cognitive development, protects against infection and strengthens a child’s immune system.

 

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