While health workers and campaigners in the UK are trying to get the Secretary for State for Health to take notice of recommendations for protecting breastfeeding and protecting babies on formula, news from The Gambia suggests our colleagues are treated very differently.
Yesterday I reported how the Minister responsible for the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations in the UK, Alan Johnson MP, had totally missed the point in a webchat when he was questioned on why the proposed revision to the regulations do not bring them into line with international standards adopted by the World Health Assmbly and introduced in many other countries. Mr Johnson said there had been a consultation on strengthening the regulations and these would be presented to Parliament shortly. It is these very bad proposals he was being asked about. Even his own advisors have recommended stronger action.
So to the Gambia where I have just seen a news report about the National Nutrition Agency working with our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) to brief parliamentarians on the importance of the marketing requirements and programmes to support parents. In The Gambia exclusive breastfeeding rates have increased markedly between 1990 and 2007 according to the permanent secretary of the Vice-President's office. See:
Let us hope the UK will learn from the practices and experiences of The Gambia in this area.