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Feature: Breastfeeding campaign not a lonely battle

Quezon City (24 November) -- THE Philippine government's campaign against giant milk formula companies is anything but a lonesome battle.

Around 50 nongovernment organizations have banded together into a nationwide coalition to help promote breastfeeding and implement the revised implementing rules and regulations of the new Milk Code.

Together, the alliance dubbed "People of the Philippines to Protect Breast Feeding" boasts of 5,000 individuals committed to campaigning against multinational infant formula companies, according to convener Ines Fernandez.

"We're sick and tired of the promotional gimmicks of these companies," she told the Inquirer by phone Wednesday. "We are all being fooled."

The establishment of the coalition was a welcome development for the government which recently stood firm on implementing Executive Order No. 51 or the Milk Code -- at least on paper.

In a letter, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III sought to correct supposed misimpressions by the Chamber of Commerce of the United States of America on the Milk Code.

He told chamber president Thomas Donahue that the revised IRR of the executive order sought to regulate milk formula advertising up to 24 months or two years -- not three years as Donahue had claimed in a letter to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Duque also stood firm on the provision requiring milk companies to put up labels warning that their products "may" contain life-threatening bacteria like "enterobacter sakazakii" and "salmonella."

The provision was consistent with the findings of experts from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, he told Donahue in the letter.

The new alliance hoped to boost the government position by campaigning for breastfeeding through its member organizations scattered around the country, according to Fernandez, executive director of the advocacy group Arugaan.

Among the members are the Action for Economic Reform, Zoto Community-based Health, Popular Education for People's Empowerment, Medical Action Group, and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, she said.

"We are ready to transform bottle-feeding moms to relactate, bringing back the power to breastfeed especially for babies aged below six months," she wrote in an e-mail to the Inquirer.

Several studies around the world apparently show the inherent efficacy and advantage of breast milk over infant formula products.

Dr. Jean Marc Olive, WHO country representative, earlier briefed a congressional committee on the benefits of breastfeeding. He warned that babies who were not breastfed were 10 times more likely to die of diarrhea, 3.6 times more likely to die of pneumonia, and 2.5 times more likely to suffer from other infections. (PIA) [top]

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