Skip to content

Infant feeding on the agenda of the 146th WHO Executive Board meeting.

Maternal Infant and young child nutrition on the agenda of the 146th WHO Executive Board (EB) meeting.

 3 February 2020 – 8 February 2020,  WHO Headquarters, Geneva   Event website

IBFAN will be covering several issues at the forthcoming Executive Board Meeting including Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition  Non State Actors involvement in WHO and WHO’s Framework of Engagement with Non State Actors.

2020 is a reporting year for Infant and Young Child Feeding, so the EB is an opportunity for a Resolution to address new concerns. In addition to the concerns about Coronavirus,  the agenda is very full and Member States are often reluctant to have new Resolutions that take up valuable time.  Indeed some powerful MS would rather that, after 40 or so years, our issue is taken off the agenda entirely. (See point 1 below)

However, there are issues that IBFAN believe need to be addressed, ideally with a draft Resolution. The issues are cross cutting and linked to food systems and strategies that impact negatively on Human Rights to Health,  emergencies and climate change:
Anyone interested to help please contact me for more information:
  • We would welcome as much support as possible for a Resolution on all the above  issues. For online marketing we need a simple call to WHO to: collect data on the extent of online social marketing that violates the International Code and subsequent relevant Resolutions and support member states in legislating to end such strategies.
Some things to note:
    1. At the end of the Director General report on Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition is a DECISION that seems to be calling for an END DATE (2026) for future biennial reporting. If this is true – we may be wrong – it would contravene the International Code itself  this must be changed.  Article 11.7 of the Code states: “The Director-General shall report in even years to the World Health Assembly on the status of implementation of the Code; and shall, on request, provide technical support to Member States preparing national legislation or regulations, or taking other appropriate measures in implementation and furtherance of the principles and aim of this Code.
    2. The list of WHA Resolutions in the Decision omits the 2002 Resolution: WHA 55.22. This may be an oversight, but this is an important one that specifically calls on Member States (4) to ensure that the introduction of micronutrient interventions and the marketing of nutritional supplements do not replace, or undermine support for the sustainable practice of, exclusive breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding;  

“The WHO Executive Board is composed of 34 members technically qualified in the field of health. Members are elected for three-year terms. The main Board meeting, at which the agenda for the forthcoming Health Assembly is agreed upon and resolutions for forwarding to the Health Assembly are adopted, is held in January, with a second shorter meeting in May, immediately after the Health Assembly, for more administrative matters. The main functions of the Board are to give effect to the decisions and policies of the Health Assembly, to advise it and generally to facilitate its work.” (quoted from WHO website)

The IBFAN team will include Patti Rundall,   Alison Linnecar (Convenor of our Climate Change and Contaminants Working Group), and Dr Marina Rea of IBFAN Brazil.

No ‘sunset clause’ please!

NGOs call for vigilance on harmful marketing 

WHO Executive Board meeting, Geneva, 7th February 2020

Civil society NGOs attending WHO’s Executive Board meeting ahead of the May World Health Assembly are protesting against a new Decision – drafted by WHO and to be debated today – proposing that in an effort to take pressure off the agenda and ‘streamline’ – biennial reporting of controls on marketing of baby formulas and foods should end in 2026.  The NGOs warn that WHO must keep a close watch on all commercial promotion that has the potential to harm health – whether on baby foods, tobacco, junk foods, alcohol or drugs.

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the 40-year-old global network that protects breastfeeding and infant and young child health, has worked alongside WHO for perhaps the longest. A major achievement of IBFAN’s work was the adoption of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981 in response to the evidence that 1.5 million babies were dying every year because they are not breastfed and that marketing was a major contributory factor. Over 800,000 babies continue to die each year because they are not breastfed [1]

The International Code was the first global consumer protection code of its kind and made strong recommendations to its Member States to end the commercial promotion of these products. One of its key requirements was that Member States report back to WHO on its implementation every two years. Because of this, the Assembly regularly heard about marketing tactics that threaten children’s health and survival – despite the industry’s claims of code compliance.  As a consequence, 19 Resolutions were adopted that clarified, strengthened and updated the original Code.  Although 85% of the 198 countries have taken some action to implement the Code, under pressure from industry and trade bodies to weaken safeguards,  far too many of these laws are too weak or rely on the voluntary cooperation of the companies.

The producer countries and corporations that profit from the fast-growing baby food market such as Swiss Nestlé, French Danone, US Mead Johnson and Abbott Ross, have always wanted this troublesome issue taken off WHO’s agenda but have dared not say so openly.

Speaking for IBFAN, Patti Rundall:

“We know that harmful marketing will not stop until every country has strong laws that are independently monitored and enforced. The multi-stakeholder partnership ideology that WHO is now embracing is making things much worse, with corporations being given unprecedented access to policy framing and setting spaces.  We know there are many important issues on WHO’s agenda, but this attempt to sunset of one of its most effective and essential safeguards can only be the result of private sector influence on WHO’s governance. To describe it as ’streamlining’ is disingenuous.”

For more information contact:  Patti Rundall: +447786523493

[1] (Lancet 2016)