The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) assessment looks at the state of national policy, programmes and planning around infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in each country.
Indicator 9 focuses on national planning for the protection of infants and young children in case of emergency: is there a strategy in place to ensure that suitable nutrition and support is quickly put in place for families in the event of a disaster?
Infants and young children are our most vulnerable citizens in any emergency situation. They need protection, as their immune systems are immature, they have specific nutritional requirements, and they can’t wait several days for an emergency response to meet their needs, especially in a high-risk setting.
Disasters and emergencies in the UK
The UK is not immune from disasters. These can range from storms and flooding, to catastrophic fires and terrorist incidents.
Helen Gray from the WBTi team has co-written, with Heather Trickey, a blog on the need for the protection of infants and young children in emergency situations.
More recently, in response to the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia in Ireland and the UK, the WBTi team has joined in setting up a social media awareness campaign on protecting infants and young children in emergencies, using memes like the one below to communicate key concepts on the Safely Fed UK Facebook page.
Gaps in policies worldwide
Yet around the world, the WBTi global report has found that planning for infants in emergencies is one of the weakest policy areas in infant feeding in many countries.
Global guidance and recommendations
The World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of delegations from all our countries, has recognized the importance of including planning for infants and young children in all disaster-preparedness planning. WHA Resolution 63.23 calls on all nations to incorporate the international standards outlines in the Operational Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies.
The newest update of the Operational Guidance has just been published by the international Infant Feeding in Emergencies Core Group, which brings together leading humanitarian organisations and experts working in this field.
Planning for the protection of infants in emergencies in the UK
The WBTi assessment of UK policy in 2016 found that there is no central national strategy on infant and young child feeding in emergencies, but that emergency planning is devolved to local areas.
(See Indicator 9 on UK policy on planning for infants in emergencies here )
Our first Anniversary Forum, to be hosted by Alison Thewliss MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Infant Feeding and Inequalities, at the Houses of Parliament in November, will bring together emergency planners, members of Local Resilience Forums, government agencies, researchers and infant nutrition specialists to explore how protecting infants and young children can be woven into the UK emergency-preparedness system.
In December, the Lactation Consultants of Great Britain will be hosting a specialist training on infant feeding in emergencies in developed countries, led by the Safely Fed Canada team, aimed at public health officials, emergency planners, specialist health visitors working with vulnerable populations and refugees, and infant feeding leads.
Disasters can and do occur in the UK, and we need to be prepared.
Created by Michelle Pensa Branco from Safely Fed Canada for Safely Fed UK: Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Facebook page
Helen Gray IBCLC is Joint Coordinator of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) UK Working Group. She is on the national committee of Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, and is also an accredited La Leche League Leader. She represents LLLGB on the UK Baby Feeding Law Group, and serves on the La Leche League International special committee on the International Code.