Thursday, March 29, 2007

We have a new print ad!

Our second print ad for National Women's Month was published early this week. This time, it is about health risks of NOT breastfeeding for children. Our colleagues in the World Health Organization reviewed the available scientific literature and concluded that there was overwhelming scientific evidence for the following health risks for children who are not breastfed:
  • diarrhea and pneumonia - formula-fed babies get diarrhea & pneumonia more often and for much longer than breastfed children
  • asthma - formula-fed infants have 40-50% higher risk of developing asthma and wheeze than infants breastfed for 9 months or longer
  • food allergy - children breastfed the longest had lowest incidence of atopy, eczema, food allergy and respiratory allergy
  • reduced intelligence - formula-fed children have IQ 3-5 points lower than breastfed children (other studies found bigger differences)
  • infection from contaminated formula - powdered baby milk is not sterile
  • chronic diseases - formula-fed children have higher risk of developing diabetes, leukemia and other cancers, and obesity

The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) noticed our first print ad and wrote about it in their blog. You can read about it here:

It's sad that we can't afford to get this message to more mothers out there. Our communication budget, including those of partners in government and other international organisations, is a drop in the bucket compared to the advertising budget of milk companies. One media executive told me that from one milk company alone, his media outfit receives over P70 million (US$ 1.5 million) in advertising every year!

We at UNICEF can think of many better ways to spend P70 million, than to promote powdered milk.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just the facts!

We are working to promote and protect breastfeeding in the Philippines. We come from different sectors and all walks of life, but we are united by this common cause. To see why, just look at these facts:

  • 6 months - length of exclusive breastfeeding recommended by WHO and UNICEF for the best infant growth, development and health

  • less than 24 days - length of exclusive breastfeeding in the Philippines for half of all infants, down from 1.4 months in 1998 (National Demogoraphic and Health Survey, 2003)

  • 16% - percentage of babies who are exclusively breastfed for 4-5 months (NDHS, 2003)

  • 16,000 - number of child deaths per year that can be traced to inappropriate feeding, including the use of infant formula (WHO)

  • P430 million - amount spent yearly for hospitalization, health consultations and medicines for illnesses due to formula-feeding (WHO)

Source: Breastfeeding by the Numbers, UNICEF

One of our biggest challenges is to rigorously implement the National Milk Code (EO 51), which was signed into law in 1986. As expected, the infant formula companies, through the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP), have been blocking our efforts to regulate how they market and promote their products. Our ally, Mike Brady, of Baby Milk Action, has a good summary of our struggles in his blog:

About the photo: Urban poor mothers protest misleading advertising by milk companies in the Philippines.
Photo credits: UNICEF/PHI/2007/Joan Bondoc