Friday, September 10, 2010

8th IBFAN Africa Conference Holds in Mauritius

By James Achanyi-Fontem

Africa rekindled child survival and maternal health interventions towards the attainment of Millennium Development Goals through effective integration of Infant and Young Child Feeding Programmes at Port Louis, Mauritius from the 20th September 2010.Men were really involved in this conference. Just read through this page and discover it for yourself.It was also gender oriented...

The conference was organised by the International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN Africa with the support of the World Health Organisation,UNICEF and the government of Mauritius.It would be recalled that the Regional IBFAN Africa office supports 32 countries: 27 countries in Anglophone Africa:Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe and 5 countries in Lusophone Africa:Angola, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mozambique and Sao Tomé & Principe.
Countries in the African region as well as world-wide, pledged to reduce under-five mortality rate by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015. “Child survival and maternity health” is the Millennium Development Goal 4.
Subsequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued Infant Feeding Guidelines which recommended that infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health. Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond.
It is estimated that 10% to 15% of under-five deaths in resource poor countries can be prevented through achievement of 90% coverage with exclusive breastfeeding alone. Studies highlight that breastfed infants have fewer respiratory and diarrhoeal illnesses, with an overall decrease in the hospitalization rates than non-breastfed infants.
It is estimated that reaching all infants with a package of interventions to protect, promote and support optimal infant and young child feeding practices - breastfeeding and complementary feeding can contribute to preventing 1.4 million and 600,000 child deaths respectively, or just over a fifth of the total annual child deaths.
The good news is that breastfeeding rates are not declining any more on a global level and have increased during the last decade in many countries, due to concerted programming efforts. Recent data highlights that there has been substantial and encouraging progress over the last 10 years in over a dozen countries, where exclusive breastfeeding rates increased by 20 percentage points or more (UNICEF database, 2007).
Many of these countries are in sub-Saharan Africa. These successes show that progress is possible, even in challenging situations. Positive outcomes are achieved when countries implement at scale, a comprehensive approach to improving infant feeding practices. This could include efforts at the level of policy and legislation, health system strengthening and capacity building, community-level action and behaviour change communication initiatives.
Improving breastfeeding practices requires behaviour change, something that does not happen
spontaneously and without encouragement and support at the family and community levels. This effort is recognized in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, which includes community based interventions as one of the new operational targets.
Given the fact that women’s capability to breastfeed is determined by both social and cultural factors, as well as medical and technical factors, mainstreaming IYCF requires both communication for behaviour change at all levels of the population, as well as skilled counseling and guidance given to women from the time of childbirth onwards. Mainstreaming of optimal IYCF, inclusion of breastfeeding indicators in outcome evaluations, capacity building for effective improvement in breastfeeding rates and building public awareness on the importance of breastfeeding is crucial to meet MDG-4, for improving child survival is of immense importance for the Africa network as well as to fulfill the global desire to achieve the MDGs for nutrition and child survival.
Evidence based preventive measures like optimal infant and young child feeding are important tools to achieve these goals. For the African continent, there is an urgent need to contribute to the ongoing efforts by various partners including NGOs, government and UN agencies.
Each member of the network must impart the essential service of infant feeding counselling to the mothers and families coming in contact with him/her. This may require sensitization of everyone coming in contact with the mother and counselling on infant feeding by a trained person.

Conference Background

IBFAN Africa Regional Meeting is a strategic planning activity that is held once every three years for IBFAN members in the Anglophone and Lusophone countries. The meeting hosts National Coordinators of infant and young child feeding programmes and group leaders from about 33 member countries in Africa. To attend these meetings, IBFAN friends, partners, donors and collaborators are also invited.
The Regional Meeting in Muritius was an opportunity to:
• Enrich and update participants on new issues and developments on Infant and Young Child Feeding;
• Provide a forum for reviewing progress of our work and sharing of experiences and information;
• Create consensus on interpretation of new knowledge and matters of mutual benefits, and
• Make recommendations on the strategic direction for the Network in IYCF for the next 3 years.
• Regional Meetings are also an opportunity for IBFAN members to elect the IBFAN Africa Advisory Committee (IAAC) members. The term of office of Dr. Lourdes Fidalgo of Mozambique as chairperson was extended for another three years. The Advisory Committee formulates major IBFAN regional policies and advices the Regional Coordinator on issues of implementation and coordination of regional programme.


IBFAN represents a global network linking over 200 groups in around 100 countries both in the North and the South. It was founded by a number of NGOs in 1979, following a WHO/ UNICEF international meeting on IYCF. This meeting culminated in the adoption of the International Code on Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes. The Code was adopted in 1981 by an overwhelming majority of 118 Member States. IBFAN was given the mandate to support governments in adopting, implementing and monitoring compliance to the Code.
The 8th IBFAN Africa Conference in Mauritius was the first during the mandate of the current Regional Coordinator, Joyce Chanetsa.
Joyce brought in key international facilitators to the conference in Mauritius: Dr. Linda Beyer of UNICEF presented the paper on the work of her organisation and current orientations, Dr. Charles Moses Sagoe of WHO spoke on the new recommendations relevant to breastfeeding in the context of HIV, Dr. J.P. Dadhich, who is National Coordinator of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India(BPNI)to talk about the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative(WBTi), Mr. Hussein H.T. Tarimo, who works with the Ministry of health in Gabrone, Botswana (Food Safety Principal Scientific Officer), Eliane Petitat-Côté from IBFAN-GIFA in Switzerland, who addressed human rights based approaches, as member of the Child Rights Commission and Yousouf Jhugroo, Chief Executive of the Institute for Consumer Protection, Mauritian Action for the promotion of Breastfeeding and Infant Nutrition just to name a few. Yousouf was the key host person of the IBFAN Africa Conference. He put the participants in Manisa Beach Hotel and we use this opportunity to express thanks and gratitude for the hospitality of the hotel management and staff.
The 8th IBFAN Africa Regional Conference was one of success stories, especially as country progress on Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) and community Mother and Baby Friendly Initiative(BFCI) were highlighted amongst other issues. Cameroon chaired the session on Thursday, 23rd September 2010 on collaboration issues and election of the new board.
The peak of the IBFAN Africa conference was the celebration of the 30th Anniversary of the Innocenti Declaration and the award of certificates to meritorious individuals and groups. Cameroon bagged a Certificate of Appreciation for its indefatigable work on behalf of Africa's women and children and assiduous reporting to IBFAN Africa.


jpdadhich said...

Dear James,

This was nice to meet you in Mauritius meeting. You have put up a balanced summary of the conference on this blog. Thanks.

JP Dadhich

holidayexpert said...

Its good to know that 8th IBFAN Africa Conference was held in Mauritius, I was at paul and virginie hotel mauritius at that time, so I've the chance to attend.