The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), has created Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) Marketing Code Watchers to discourage the uptake of BMS in Kaduna State.
The international agency established this in collabration with the National Orientation Agency (NOA).
UNICEF Focal Person in NOA, Kaduna State Office, Malam Lawal Haruna, made this known in Zaria during the opening of a one-day sensitisation of the watchers on International Code of Marketing of BMS.
The Code Watchers are made up of traditional and religious leaders, Directors of Primary Health Centres and NFP from nine Local Government Areas of the state.
Haruna pointed out that the sensitisation was to equip the Code Watchers with relevant information on the code, discuss their roles and develop action plan and commitment.
Haruna added that the sensitisation was also organised to discuss the role of the Code Watchers, develop action plan and make commitment of the way forward.
BMS Desk Officer, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration, Mrs Rahila Maishanu, explained that the 34th session of the World Health Assembly had in 1981 adopted International Code of Marketing of BMS.
Maishanu adding that Nigeria domesticated the code and NAFDAC was mandated to implement, monitor and enforce the code.
She explained that the measure was to encourage and promote optimal breastfeeding practices and complementary feeding to check against malnutrition due to poor breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices.
According to her, the code among other things prohibited advertisement of BMS; prohibit free sample to mothers and healthcare workers; and prohibit promotion of the product in health centres in any form.
“It also mandated that information on BMS products must clearly state the superiority of breastfeeding and the health hazards associated with BMS and the cost implication.
“BMS producers in the country have continued to violate the code and went as far as advertising the products in our health centres.
“Due to ignorance of the code, some health officials are being recruited by the producers to assist in promoting the products in health facilities,” she said.
she said that manufacturers of the product will go to any length to make money, stressing that community leaders and health officials have a responsibility to ensure that children are adequately fed.
Also speaking, the representative of the state’s Nutrition Officer, Mr Adams Ango, said that huge number of under-five children in the state was faced with one form of malnutrition or the other due to poor feeding habits.
The officer noted that exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding practices was very law in the state.
“Our children are malnourished not only because they are not properly fed, but because mothers are still feeding infants with BMS instead of exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding.
NOA Director in the state, Malam Galadima Soba, explained that establishing the Code Watchers became necessary to ensure enforcement of the code and promoting appropriate infant and young child feeding.
Also speaking, Malam Isa Ibrahim, Nutrition Advocacy Adviser, Save the Children International, said that involving community leaders was crucial to discouraging the use of BMS.
Ibrahim identified some of the roles to include observation of all forms of BMS products or its display at health facilities and track key information passed to pregnant and lactating women during antenatal care.
“They should also monitor distribution of free sample of BMS by manufacturers or their agents and promote exclusive breastfeeding practices in churches and mosque and during community meetings.
“Report anyone found violating the code to local government nutrition officer or NAFDAC on this number: 08068575437,” he said.