Monday, February 03, 2003

New Pakistan Ordinance Bans Baby Foods
Tue Jan 21, 7:26 AM ET, Ahmad Naeem Khan,OneWorld South Asia, LAHORE, Jan 21 (OWSA) - "Western multinational companies stand to lose billions after the Pakistan government banned the promotion of baby foods Monday through a radical new ordinance to boost child nutrition and promote breast-feeding.
While passing the "Protection of Breast-Feeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance," the government in the south Asian nation released statistics showing that the country spent U.S $2.4 billion annually on the import of formula milk. This happens to be the maximum spent on this commodity by any country in the world.

According to the new law, " no person shall promote infant formula, or other products, including bottle fed complementary foods, as a replacement for breast milk."

" Prolonged use of formula milk is also linked to a high infant mortality rate, which, in the case of Pakistan, happens to be the highest in the region," stressed leading pediatrician Dr Shahzad Awan. He added that the 50 per cent reduction in the infant mortality rate in neighbouring Bangladesh in recent years, highlighted the importance of encouraging mothers to breast-feed.

Current statistics show Pakistan's infant mortality rate hovered at 95 per thousand live births with some 230,000 children dying of diarrheal diseases, and 136 per thousand deaths annually of children up to the age of five.

Surprisingly baby foods are much in demand here. As social activist Dr Firdous Khan informed, " At present, there are some 160 varieties of infant formula milk available in the country. Although breast-feeding is part of our cultural traditions, only 16 per cent of infants are exclusively breast-fed till the age of three months, while the number of children breast-fed till the age of two totals just 56 per cent."

[Bangladesh's 50 per cent reduction in infant mortality rate says it all. - JC]

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