Brazzaville is a city in the Congo Republic. According to the 2022 update on the International Classification of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, an increasing amount of African nations are resisting unethical advertising of breast-milk replacements by tightening regulations to protect overall health of mothers and children from deceptive marketing tactics.

Six African countries have enacted or strengthened regulations against the illegal advertising of breast-milk substitutes in the last two years. This takes the total amount of countries in the area that have passed legislation at minimum some of the Code’s requirements to 34. The Code, which was endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 1981, is critical in global efforts to assist women in making optimal choices about newborn care based on unbiased data and free of commercial influences, as well as to receive full support in doing so. The Global Baby Food Action Network, UNICEF, with the help of  World Health Organization (WHO) monitor and report on its implementation on a regular basis.

“Marketers have been trying for decades to redirect mothers’ attention away from their own capacity to nurture their newborns,” stated Dr Adelheid Onyango, Director, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Universal Health Coverage/Healthier Populations. “As communication mediums proliferate, the approaches have become more subtle. It’s encouraging to see more and more African governments are treating the problem seriously and putting up barriers to deceptive marketing.”

Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, and Sierra Leone, three African countries that formerly had no legislation relating to the Code, have now passed new legislation. Ethiopia has passed a tough new law to replace outdated legislation that only covered a few sections of the code. Several concerns in existing legislation have been cleared by a new charge  in Côte d’Ivoire and rules in Kenya.

According to the research, the COVID-19 pandemic provided new chances for breast-milk substitute makers to promote their brands and goods in various nations. The dispersion of free goods of advertising baby formula in societies undergoing lockdowns, online content trying to position the supplier as an expert on COVID-19 protection in babies, and claims that equation provides protection against COVID-19 were among the marketing techniques cited in the report.

Despite WHO and UNICEF guidance for national governments, as well as messages reminding parents of the safety of nursing with COVID-19, marketers made videos advocating against it for women afflicted with the virus. Breast-milk substitutes are promoted to reduce the perceived value of breastfeeding and to weaken women’s self – confidence to breastfeed. It capitalizes on parents’ expectations and concerns about feeding their newborns, positioning formula milk as a preferable alternative to milk.

In addition, the research identifies serious gaps in national legislation. There are no provisions in order to avoid potential conflicts. Only six nations have legislative limitations on corporate sponsorship of gatherings of healthcare professionals or scientific organisations, out of the 34 having Code legislation. Only 12 nations have clearly defined measures that cover the whole range of breast-milk substitutes, including milk products intended for use up to 36 months. Only six countries restrict health and nutrition claims from being made on labels.

According to the research, political will just at highest levels is required, as are restrictions on industry lobbying, improved accountability, implementation and supervision systems, and Code education. Countries asked WHO recommendations on how to restrict the improper marketing of chest substitutes through digital platforms during the World Health Assembly on May 22–28, 2022. The Code has been continually reinforced by the World Health Assembly to meet the ever-changing strategies used by infant food makers to promote and sell new products using conventional and emerging media.

WHO is promoting baby-friendly healthcare initiatives in Africa, where mothers are encouraged to start breastfeeding as soon as possible after shipping, which has psychological, immunization, and nutritional benefits. 11 countries have received advice on how to institutionalize baby-friendly hospital efforts over the last two years.

To expedite advances in protect the health and safety of women and newborns through nursing, the report recommends for more human and material resources to be invested.

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