Save the Children International (SCI), an NGO, has alleged that some health facilities in Kaduna state are engaged in promoting infant formula also known as Breast Milk Substitute (BMS).
SCI stated this in a report entitled, “Periodic Monitoring and Reporting of Health Facilities Compliance on BMS Code and Nutrition Services in Kauru and Soba Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Kaduna State”.
According to the report made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Kaduna on Wednesday, the practice contravened the International Code of Marketing Breast Milk Substitute.
The NGO said that the practice was also against Nigeria’s Marketing of Infant and Young Children Food (IYCF) and other Designated Products Regulations 2019.
It explained that the BMS Code and Nigeria’s IYCF marketing regulations were designed to end inappropriate promotion of foods for infants and young children.
SCI stressed that exclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding remained the healthiest, safest and nutritious feeding practices for infant and young children as against BMS.
“The Code and the IYCF marketing regulations directed manufacturers and markers of BMS not to provide free products or samples of BMS to families through health workers or health facilities.
“They also warned against donation, acceptance or distribution of equipment or services to health facilities; gifts or incentives to health care staff as well as the use of health facilities to host events, contests, or marketing.
“The MBS Code and IYCF marketing regulation equally warned against creating awareness directly or indirectly to parents and caregivers, on infant formula in health facilities by BMS manufacturing companies.
“But in spite of these provisions, health facilities in Kaduna state have continued to be used as a major conduit for promoting BMS products,” SCI said.
According to the NGO, a recent survey indicates that pregnant women who visit health centres in Kauru and Soba LGAs were being asked to feed their babies with infant formula by health workers.
“A mother of a one-and-half-year-old baby interviewed at one of the rural health facilities in Soba LGA, said that she was asked by a doctor to feed her newborn with `NAN’ Milk.
“Another mother of a four-month-old baby, a midwife at a health centre in Maigana, Soba LGA, said that all her children were fed with infant formula, including her newborn baby.
“All the mothers interviewed said that they had no idea about the BMS Code or Nigeria’s IYCF marketing regulation on the promotion of BMS.
“Similarly, a female health worker in one of the rural hospitals in Kauru LGA acknowledged that she had been recommending Breast Milk Substitute for a baby whose mother had complications during delivery or had multiple newborn babies.”
SCI added that three health professionals in some of the facilities equally admitted that they had attended a health professional conference in Kaduna that was supported by a company that sells baby foods.
It said that a health worker was equally found using a BMS promotional material donated by one of the BMS producing company.
SCI said that of the 16 health workers interviewed in the two LGAs, none had ever heard about the BMS Code and Nigeria’s IYCF marketing regulations.
“There is, therefore, the need for the state Ministry of Health and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency to provide mothers with vital information on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices.
“NAFDAC should also extend its monitoring exercise to rural health facilities in the state, to ensure compliance on the BMS Code and Nigerian IYCF regulation.
“The state, LGAs, NAFDAC and development partners should also integrate BMS Code and the IYCF regulations into routine workshops, seminars, and sensitisation meetings being organised for health workers.
“This will enlighten the health workers on their roles in promoting compliance of BMS Code and IYCF regulations,” the NGO said.