Health workers under their umbrella body of Nutritional Society of Uganda have strongly warned mothers against the use of breast milk substitutes saying they adversely affect the proper growth and upbringing of children.
They sounded the warning during a health symposium on the implementation of the Breast milk substitutes regulations held at the Makerere University -Food Science Conference Hall on Tuesday.
Dr. Barbra Nalubanga, a member of the Nutritional society of Uganda whose patron is the Minister of Health said as health workers, they don’t agree with the marketing and branding of breast milk substitutes in health centers and pharmacies alluding it has enticed mothers and discouraged the natural breast milk at the expense of the health of children.
“The continuous and aggressive advertising of breast milk substitutes has encouraged unsuspecting mothers and discouraged the naturally recommended breastfeeding,” she said.
It is 40 years since the World Health Organization (WHO) introduced the international regulations Code guiding the sales and supply of breast milk substitutes.
The Code is aimed at contributing to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by protecting and promoting breastfeeding and to ensure proper use of breast milk substitutes or to protect mothers and children against its aggressive marketing.
Uganda, as a member of WHO, voted to ratify it and therefore committed to implement all its provisions and to domesticate the regulation of breast milk substitutes.
The Ministry of Health last month drafted amendments to the regulations on the marketing and sale of infants and child foods.
Currently, the country uses the 1997 regulations on the marketing of infants and young child foods adopted from the above 1981 International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes policy of the World Health Organization.
While Uganda’s regulations have been around for the last 23 years, nutritionists say the policies have never been fully implemented.
Health Ministry officials want to revise the regulations to address the prevailing situation in the country. The proposed revisions are aimed at creating enforcement committees and introduce stricter penalties for offenders.
A 2018 and 2020 report published by the Ugandan office of the International Baby Food Action Network says legal inadequacy has aided the local and international manufacturers to evade regulations.
The 2020 status report indicates that only 6 percent of all milk substitutes sold on the market follow the labelling guidelines.