Shaping policies & programme decisions regarding Infant Young Child Feeding

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Interactive Workshop by HELP

Shaping policies & programme decisions
regarding Infant Young Child Feeding

KARACHI: Health Education and Literacy Programme (HELP) an NGO working in the field of health and education organized a workshop on shaping policy and programme decisions on Infant Young Child Feeding (IYCF) to identify stakeholders who have some influence in this area. It was attended by representatives from WHO, World Food Programme, some NGOs and media. The objective was to prepare a stakeholders mapping after identification and then plan future strategies. It was moderated and facilitated by Dr. Amara Shakeel in collaboration with Dr. Hana Mehmood and Dr. Rozina. During the deliberations the workshop participants identified various institutions, donor agencies, academic institutions and media which have lot of influence on shaping the policies and programmes in this area.
Media in general and electronic media in particular it was suggested can play a very vital role in promoting nutrition in infants and young children by carrying short attractive messages to promote breast feeding and use of healthy nutritious food to overcome the problem of malnutrition. Similarly Health Education Cell, Nutrition Cell, professional specialty organizations like Pakistan Paediatric Association can also do a lot. PPA in fact had played a vital role in formulating the Code of Ethics for marketing of infant food formulas. The issue of prescription monitoring, Primary Prevention Initiative in Health by the Sindh Government, educating the young adolescent girls through changes in education curriculum, need for proper monitoring and implementation of the policy decisions were also highlighted. It was stressed that members of the medical profession in general and pediatricians in particular must start practicing what they preach and ensure that mothers are advised to ensure exclusive breast feeding for the first six months. Provision of food supplements for pregnant and lactating mothers through UNICEF and World Food Programme can also be extremely helpful. Some institutions, organizations including donor agencies like World Bank, USAID, Save the Children Fund, and NGO like HANDS, HELP, and AKRHSP have been working in this area for quite some time.
It was also observed that healthcare facilities should provide an exclusive space for breast feeding for the babies for mothers who come to the hospital for medical check up and have to spend quite a few hours in the Out Patients Department. Similarly establishing Nurseries for small babies at work place for the working mothers will help and facilitate breast feeding. Print and electronic media should also highlight the use of good nutritious safe products. Evaluation and monitoring of these interventions to find out its impact was also extremely important. Lack of data regarding prevalence of malnutrition in Pakistan was also highlighted. Few studies done in hospital settings can only point towards the frequency and give some indication as to the magnitude of the problem but it cannot give us the exact figures about malnutrition which is only possible through large scale community studies. Dr.Rozina was of the view that we must identify the high risk districts in Sindh Province as regards prevalence of malnutrition before embarking on any intervention strategies. Every data that we get does not provide us the information that we need. A large number of NGOs including international NGOs are working in this area but they lack effective co-ordination, hence their accountability and monitoring their performance should be initiated. World Bank, UNICEF and World Food Programmes all work together as developmental partners and effective use of their technical assistance and funding could help improve the overall situation in the country as regards infant and young child feeding practices.
Earlier Dr. Amara Shakeel in her brief presentation talked about stakeholders net-mapping which was later explained in detail. Pakistan Medical and Dental Council which is supposed to ensure monitoring and accountability of the medical profession have been a great failure. The role of South Asia Infant Feeding Research Network (SAIFRAN) was also discussed. How these policies and programme decisions can be strengthened was also discussed in detail. The organizers promised to share the data and information collected during this interactive workshop with the participants.
HELP, it may be mentioned here was established in 1983 and the initiative was taken by Prof. D.S.Akram by starting a project for impoverished communities in Karachi to provide them with primary healthcare with special emphasis on immunization. Its main focus remains on healthcare of women of reproductive age and children pertaining to reproductive health, family planning, preventive medicine and nutrition. It has a mission of designing and implementing replicable models of health promotion, health delivery and education for children and women through need assessment. Its objectives include increase in coverage of immunization, increased TT coverage in women, provide nutrition support in community besides identification and rehabilitation of moderate and severe wasting in children less than five years of age. Other objectives include building capacity of health personnel, developing liaison with hospitals for care of women and children thereby contributing in reduction in child and maternal mortality.

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