Protecting all infants in emergencies: Indicator 9 in the WBTi report

Protecting all infants in emergencies:  Indicator 9 in the WBTi report

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. 

Ind 9 Trickey Gray

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.

Safely Fed UK Power Outage

Ind 9 global

 

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

Ops Guidance IFE 2017

 

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.

Banner illustration:
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 photo

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.

 

 

World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative to be launched in the UK on 28 September

The first meeting of the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative (WBTi) UK will be held on Monday 28 September in London.

The meeting brings together key breastfeeding organisations in the country to complete the first UK WBTi assessment, a detailed exercise that will result in a “report card” on breastfeeding for the UK. This will give a clear picture of the state of breastfeeding – both policies and practices – in the UK.

The partner organisations will then put forward a plan highlighting what actions to take to address the gaps identified.

Launched in 2005 by International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative monitors 10 key breastfeeding policies and programmes, drawn from the WHO’s Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding and the Innocenti Declaration. Over 100 countries have participated in the initiative so far.

The WHO Global Strategy recognises that for breastfeeding to be successful mothers and families need the right support along the whole course of breastfeeding – from giving birth in a Baby Friendly hospital, to going home to find skilled local support from midwives, health visitors, GPs, and mother support groups throughout their communities. After that they need maternity protection and breastfeeding breaks when they return to work. They need accurate information about breastfeeding – without marketing pressure from formula manufacturers – from friends, family and the media, as well as health professionals and policymakers.

Those countries that have enacted the WHO Global Strategy have seen marked improvements in breastfeeding rates. For example, a recent report by Save the Children looked at breastfeeding policies and practices in six countries, including the UK, and highlighted the importance of a strong national policy on infant feeding.

The UK meanwhile has some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. Only 1% of babies are exclusively breastfed for six months, despite recommendations by WHO and Department of Health.

The partner organisations involved in WBTi UK assessment include: Public Health Wales, Public Health England, CHIMAT, CPHVA, Institute of Health Visiting, Nursing and Midwifery Council, National Infant Feeding Network, UNICEF Baby Friendly UK, Baby Feeding Law Group, Lactation Consultants of Great Britain, Association of Breastfeeding Mothers, Breastfeeding Network, La Leche League GB, NCT, Best Beginnings, IBFAN Baby Milk Action, Maternity Action and First Steps Nutrition Trust.