LAHORE: The Health Department, in collaboration with Health, Education and Literacy Programme (HELP) and Save the Children Pakistan Programme, organised the maiden meeting of the Punjab Infant Feeding Board (PIFB) on Thursday.
Health Parliamentary Secretary Khawaja Imran Nazir, who was the chief guest, said that it was a learning experience amongst so many qualified and experienced health care professionals. Nazir said: “Mass awareness programme should be started in order to gain required output. Breastfeeding has been emphasised in the Holy Quran and Islam also directs mothers to feed newborns up to the age of two years. Religious instructions have serious interpretations in terms of medical health too.”
Nazir appreciated the role of Save the Children Pakistan Programme and HELP and thanked them on behalf of the Punjab government.
The objective of the board meeting was to review rules and regulations framed under federal legislation titled ‘Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance, 2002’ and to further review and finalise the rules and regulations under the ‘Punjab Protection of Breastfeeding and Child Nutrition Act, 2012’ in consultation with stakeholders, including health and law departments.
Dr Tanveer Ahmed said that the Punjab government had had consultations with various departments during preparation of the said act in order to ensure safety of children through breastfeeding. He emphasised providing marketing guidelines to breast milk substitutes production companies and multinationals. He thanked the Save the Children Pakistan Programme to promote and publicise the act through various advocacy techniques.
Prof Durre Samin Akram, honorary HELP chairperson, presented a historical perspective of breastfeeding legislation and its requirements. She said that Punjab had been ahead of other provinces on having legislation on breastfeeding already done. About hazards of formula milk, she said that alternate and formula milk had become a multi-billion dollar commercial enterprise globally and due to commercial purposes, the mother-child health was being neglected.
Law Secretary Dr Najmi said that legislative intervention would be initiated when and where needed. He assured his department’s full support to the health department and other consultative partners, which were trying to promote breastfeeding in the best interest of mothers and children. He said that discussions were needed to make this legislation more effective.
Punjab Assembly Member Dr Nausheen Hamid called for avoiding unnecessary hospitalisation of mothers after deliveries. She said that young mothers were largely unaware of hazards of formula milk and that they start feeding newborns with bottles immediately after birth. She called for displaying awareness posters on clinics and hospitals to sensitise and educate new mothers.
Dr Nadia Aziz said that promotion of formula milk by multinationals in hospitals and clinics must be checked. She went on to say that no publicity poster should be allowed to be pasted there if we want to change the alarming statistics of mortality rate of children below five years of age.
Dr Naveed, from Save the Children, suggested to extend the PIFB membership and also to place developmental partners on the board so that its meetings could take place as and when required.
Health Director General Dr Zahid Pervaiz said that the department would look into recommendations to finalise rules and regulations for breastfeeding law. “Punjab is not far from achieving millennium development goals (MDGs) as we will be achieving major health indicators by next year.”
According to a recent report, Pakistan has not made any progress towards reducing infant and neonatal mortality rate and it still stands at 74/1,000 and 55/1,000 live births, respectively, indicating that around 400,000 babies are likely to die during their first year of life.
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