When “Breast ISN’T Best”

Government and politics in developing countries, especially, can make life…interesting at times. Last September, Zambia voted in a new president (Michael Sata), and here is just one area in which life has been made interesting in the meantime.

Thanks to Tim Hilty for putting most of this together.

In December, Sata’s government gave manufacturers of infant formula a 1-month ultimatum in which they should start abiding by new regulations that regulate the marketing of breast-feeding substitutes in the country, restricting the way that breast milk substitute manufacturers market their products. Large scale seizures of the infant formula have already taken place. In those cases, infant formula was removed because of the messages and pictures that were displayed on the packaging. The claim is that the packaging made an attempt to persuade mothers to feed their infants the substitute instead of breastfeeding.

Of course, the new regulations seek to do good, but now there is a great deal of uncertainty about the future availability of infant formula for at-risk children, like the children in the Baby Milk & Nutrition Program in Sinazongwe. Some of the babies have no mothers, or if they do, (most likely) they are HIV positive.

ACTION Zambia partners with Theuns and Karin Engelbrecht, who minister in southern Zambia and operate The Baby Milk & Nutrition Program. For some time now, AZ has helped fund this program that provides basic medical care and nutrition for babies suffering from moderate to severe malnutrition. Many children literally owe their lives to this program. 

One of the ways this program works is by providing infant formula for infants unable to breastfeed or by making a highly nutritious porridge that includes infant formula and supplements the babies’ breastfeeding.

So, it’s no wonder that Karin Engelbrecht contacted AZ recently to say that, “This [infant formula shortage] presents an enormous crisis for us as we currently have 11 babies on our Infant Milk Support Program of whom most are orphans. We also have 12 babies in various stages on the Nutrition Program. Some of them receive a supplement of Milk Formula as well.”

Thankfully, in the meantime, Tim Hilty was put in contact with Nestle in Zambia and was able to buy a 6-month supply of formula at wholesale price for The Baby Milk & Nutrition Program. Tim will be meeting with the nutritionist at Nestle next Monday to lobby for Nestle to help us do more for the babies in the future. Pray for this meeting to go well!

Here is an easy way to donate, if you want to help The Baby Milk & Nutrition Program.

Also, just this morning on a quick stop at Pick n Pay, we happened to notice this:

There were 3 different suppliers of infant formula on the shelf, and all 3 had a similar “warning label” regarding breast feeding.

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