Sunday, October 7, 2007

A tiny woman who moved mountains

"We allowed the companies to touch the lives of our babies, not because we did not care, but because we did not realise the consequences of granting such a privilege. How to change all that? How to break the ‘friendly’ stranglehold that we had allowed the milk companies to have on our hospital?

I closed the door of the nursery to the milk companies. We stopped giving our babies the starter dose of infant formula. Down came the colourful posters and calendars; in their place we hung the "baby killer’ posters which show an amaciated baby inside a dirty feeding bottle. Would the milk companies sue me, I wondered. Everything that was conducive to bottle feeding was removed not only from the nursery, but from everywhere else in the hospital. I myself rejected samples and donations from the milk companies. How else could we be credible?"

Dr. Natividad Clavano, 1932-2007

Thank you very much to Patti Rundall (Baby Milk Action) for sending the above quote of Dr. Clavano.

Below are some more tributes and memories of Dr. Clavano, coming in from different parts of the world.

From Prof. David Morley, MD, CBE of University College London-Institute of Child Health:

Natty came to the Institute of Child Health concerned to learn more about Asthma. However with only a little persuasion she came to see the great need of the underprivileged in her country. She returned to set up the Under Five's Clinic and also started a large study in Breast Feeding in the local Hospital in Bagnio north of Manila in the Philippines, which I had an opportunity to visit. The success of her study on Breast Feeding came to the notice of UNICEF and the support of Jim Grant whose Baby-Friendly Hospital initiative she was one of the earliest to successfully implemented.

She had great drive and was a wonderful person not least because she came from the more wealthy in Philippine society but appreciated the needs of the poor and underprivileged.

From Anwar Fazal, grassroots activist and recipient of the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize, Malaysia:

Dr. Natividad Clavano, this tiny woman moved mountains. To those who said it could not be done i can hear her saying " get out of the way of those of us who are already doing it!"At the Baguio Hospital in the Phillipines, she gave us a shining model that inspired two generations of activists and health professionals. Her competence and her courage was legendary.

And just last year she called me to say she wants to do more and to call her if we needed her for anything. She spawned energy and confidence and was there for us, always. How would Dr Clavano, a dear friend for over 30 years,be like to be remembered? I thought she would have liked to share this poem by Margaret Powers:

Do not stand at my grave and weep.

I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.

I am the diamond glint on snow.

I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning's hush,

I am the swift uplifting rush of quiet birds in circled flight.

I am the soft star that shines at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry:

I am not there. I did not die.

We are glad that through her great work she will always be with us. That how she you would want it to be and thats how it will be. Salams, sister clavono and thank you...

More from Innes Fernandez, in behalf of Save Babies Coalition:

Dr. Nativid Relucio-Clavano October 04 at the Makati Medical Center in metroManila. We will miss our breastfeeding doctor-warrior who bravely testified against milk companies insidious marketing that caused bottlefeeding menace. She talked openly about how Nestle in a meeting in Geneva tried to bribed her in exchange for dropping her remarkable study. She conducted an intensive research studies on breastfeeding and how it save thousands of babies' lives. It also exposed the consequences of bottlefeeding and diarrhea in the 70's and 80's. It was a global reference. She continued to pursue another thorough study on complementary feeding. She was one of the few brave woman-doctor who despite her lingering illness gave breastfeeding trainings anywhere and anytime especially last year. On media interviews, she dared to tell the public about milk companies advertising lies, she is one of few doctors unafraid of the multinational giants.

She awaited for the Philippine Supreme Court long standing (2 years) final verdict on the revised Implementing Rules and Regulation of our Milk Code law. The multinational milk-pharmaceutical companies composed of Mead Johnson, Wyeth, Abbott-Ross, Glaxo-Smithkline, Novartis etc. formed an NGO called PHAP-Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association of the Philippines who sued the Department of Health officials for passing a strong rules covering a ban on advertisement on babyfood for babies below 2 years old etc.

Dra. Naty R. Clavano could no longer wait for it. She bid the world goodbye. She is an inspiration for us, a moving spirit behind our babyfood issue struggles.

From Virginia Thorley, OAM, PhD, IBCLC, Member, WABA's International Advisory Council Lactation Consultant (original cohort of 1985). Cultural Historian of the History of Medicine. Brisbane, Queensland, Australia:

I send my condolences to all in the Philippines who worked with Dr Clavano in her campaigns to support the health of mothers and babies and defeat the attacks of breastfeeding. I hope her example will inspire others to take up the work.

From Dr. Marina Ferreira Rea, Senior Researcher, Institute of Health Of Sao Paulo, Brazil:

Dear Ines, Beautiful and sweet letter. I make your words my words. I was with Dr Clavano last time I was there in 2006 and could see how the national authorities supported her.

Please, if you have opportunity to see the family tell them that we - even farway in Brazil - wish she rests in peace. Much love to you and our wonderful filipino friends.

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