The WHO and You

Are you familiar with the International Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, aka the WHO Code? The Code and its resolutions have been written by the World Health Organization to “contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breast-feeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.”

While the WHO Code has become the law in several countries around the world, it is a voluntary measure in the US — it cannot be enforced! Because it is not a law, many manufacturers of breastmilk substitutes use predatory marketing tactics to turn a new mom’s vulnerability into profit. Thankfully, movements like the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative are trying to reduce that.

Recently, the World Health Organization decided to accept corporate donations to support its anti-obesity initiatives. As if that wasn’t enough to make you say “huh?”, the Pan American WHO office (based in Washington DC) accepted a $150,000 donation from long-time WHO code violater Nestlé.

It’s quite disheartening for moms to see an organization that once protected them become allies of sorts with what they were protecting moms from In fact, it’s more than disheartening. It makes me mad to see this. So what is a mom, consumer, or someone angered by this to do? Take action!

Let the World Health Organization know that they should return Nestlé’s money via social media. You can leave a message on the WHO’s Facebook page. If you’re on Twitter, follow @NestleFail or tweet using hashtags #WHO, #WHOcode, #nonestle, or #calltoaction. Read this post on Lactation Matters for even more ways to help.

Want more info on the WHO Code? Here are some helpful links
– Snugabell has put together a great summary of the WHO Code
– Breastfeeding Online’s info on the WHO Code
– Baby Milk Action’s comprehensive post on the WHO Code and resolutions

Edited 11/14/12 to add:

The WHO took to their Facebook page to address the growing criticism against them and the PAHO (emphasis is mine):

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the importance of working with the private sector. However since part of our work involves setting norms, standards and guidelines for public health, we have very strict guidelines for accepting money from the private sector. WHO does not accept funds from the food and beverage industry for its noncommunicable diseases work.
It is unfortunate that the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) has accepted money from the food and beverage industry.

PAHO – while it is a WHO regional office for the Americas – is, unlike the other regional offices, also the health agency of the Organization of American States. Therefore in some areas, PAHO has its own operating guidelines. Not all PAHO guidelines are aligned with WHO. One such area is collaboration with the private sector.

Seems like the WHO are trying to distance themselves from PAHO! So what now? Reach out to the PAHO and tell them to give Nestlé’s money back! Read more from Lactation Matters

Edited 11/20/12 to add

There is a now a petition you can sign to voice your frustration! Sign it and let the World Health Organization know that you do not appreciate breastfeeding mothers and babies being sold out for a measly $150,000!

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