Experts protest GAIN being allowed to influence WHO, UNICEF

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New Delhi, Oct 12 (UNI) Expressing serious concern over the body of food supplement manufacturers being allowed to influence UNICEF and WHO policies on infant feeding, a group of international experts have urged them to reconsider such partnership as it undermines their independence and objectivity.

In a letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan and UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action and its core partners, including a group of 53 international experts from 24 countries protested the particpation of Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), on whose board food giants and manufacturers of breast milk substitutes DANONE, at the meeting on 'Strengthening Actions to Improve infant feeding in children 6-23 months of age,' at Geneva.

The experts said that by inviting GAIN, whose board members have systematically violated the International Code of Marketing of breastmilk Substitutes, it has been given an opportunity to influence the policy directions of WHO and UNICEF.

''The WHO/UNICEF partnership with GAIN constitutes a conflict of interest and is in contradiction with WHO's own Guidelines on Interaction with Commercial Enterprises to Achieve Health Outcomes...'' The presence of GAIN in such a meeting legitimises its declared aim to build markets for the commercial sector in the developing world especially for commercial foods for infants and young children, they said.

''We expect WHO and UNICEF to safeguard their independence and take care to avoid conflict of interest, in any joint collaboration with such parties, ensuring that their policies and implementation strategies are based on the health needs of the population rather than on the interests of their partners,'' they added.

They asked WHO and UNICEF to immediately reconsider their partnership with GAIN, and other similar organisations having conflicts of interest in protection of women and infant and young child health, nutrition, survival and development. Such partnership would undermine the independence and objectivity of UNICEF and WHO, they added.

These experts wrote the letter while attending the workshop on ' Protecting Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding from 6-24 months: Issues, Politics, Policies and Action' that discussed how to support continued breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding.

The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions, and national regulations, protect mothers and children from any commercial influence that undermines optimal infant and young child feeding practices.


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