BEING the only country in the world with a breastfeeding marketing code that covers children up to five years old, Fiji is committed to strengthen its breastfeeding trend initiatives.
This means the Health Ministry will do its best to utilise the $60,000 allocated for the breastfeeding program to ensure, among other things, the timely initiation of breastfeeding new-born babies with an hour of birth; exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of their lives; and babies be breast-fed for two years or more.
Senior ministry nutritionist Ateca Kama, who attended the World Breastfeeding Conference in New Delhi last the weekend, said the way forward would be for Fiji to be a baby-friendly country.
Ms Kama said the ministry was also training sub-divisional monitors to work with health inspectors on the sale of baby food.
"We need to train them so that they can know what is expected of them," she said.
Sharing Fiji's initiatives with reps from 85 countries at the conference, Ms Kama said the international code was interpreted and regulated here through the Marketing Controls (Foods for Infants and Young Children) 2010 under the Food Safety Act.
"The Marketing Control Regulations covers children up to five years of age," she said.
Ms Kama said some of the challenges posed by the food industry included the withdrawal of all products one day before the regulation came into effect to create an artificial shortage.
There were also arguments that 3000 babies would be denied their right to food as well as unsubstantiated claims including that the changes would take time and labelling was too difficult to comply with.
Ms Kama said some of the intimidation techniques adopted by the food industry included involving top US government officials during meetings and getting lawyers and consultants from abroad for their defence. At the conference's declaration and call to action for babies need mom-made not man-made, the participants agreed that almost seven million children under five years of age die globally every year, largely from preventable causes.
Of these, two thirds die before they reach their first birthday, most from pneumonia, diarrhoea and new born infections.
One third of all under five deaths are related to under-nutrition.
The conference participants agreed that breastfeeding was not a lifestyle but a public health imperative.
And there is no food more locally produced, affordable and sustainable than breast milk.