By: MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has called for the strengthening of the legislation on the marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS) in Nigeria.
Director-General of NAFDAC, Professor Mojishola Adeyeye, made the demand while raising alarm over the continued violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and national regulations by manufacturers of BMS products in the country.
Adeyeye highlighted the dangers inherent in such violations on national economy, the health of the citizenry and future of the country. “The importance of appropriate infant and young child feeding and resultant effect on national economic development cannot be over-emphasized,” she stressed.
The NAFDAC leader expressed this concern at a one-day sensitization workshop organized by NAFDAC in Collaboration with Alive & Thrive FHI-360 for health editors in Lagos recently.
The theme of the workshop is: “Compliance With The Code Of Marketing Of Breastmilk Substitutes”.
While declaring the event opened, Adeyeye explained the reason why the workshop was organized. She said: “The knowledge and lack of awareness of stakeholders, including the media, has also contributed to the gravity of violations currently being practiced in Nigeria.
“This has necessitated the need for regulatory agency in collaboration with relevant partners to aggressively address this unpleasant situation through interventions including effective sensitization of all stakeholders on the responsibilities and comments on the provisions of the code and the national regulations.”
In continuation of her remarks, the NAFDAC director-general pointed out that Nigeria voted for the adoption of the Code at International level, and, is therefore, expected to implement all its provisions through appropriate measures, including legislation.
“National legislation to implement the Code”, Adeyeye added, “may, therefore, be stronger but, certainly, not weaker than its provisions.”
In Nigeria, according to her, by the provisions of Act 22 of 1999, NAFDAC was specifically designated as a regulatory agency concerned with Code implementation, enforcement and monitoring.
She elaborated on why the marketing of breast milk substitutes deserve the interest of every patriotic citizen of Nigeria. She declared: “I want to remind us of the preamble to the adoption of the Code, which says in part: ‘Believing that, in the light of the foregoing considerations, and in view of the vulnerability of infants in the early months of life and the risks involved in inappropriate feeding practices, including the unnecessary and improper use of breast milk substitutes, the marketing practices unsuitable for these products.’ This explains the perceived peculiar provisions of the Code concerning the marketing of the products.”
She emphasized that this, responsibility will enable Nigeria to achieve the principles and aims of the code to guarantee optimal infant and young child feeding (IYCF) in the country.
The NAFDAC boss charged participants at the workshop “to wake up to their responsibilities and ensure proper understanding of every topic talked about on every issues pertaining to the code.
A team of facilitators who are experts in their respective fields assembled for the workshop delivered talks on subjects that would ensure that Nigeria progresses in the area of Code compliance.
On the occasion, presentations were made on the following topics: “Update On Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF)” was delivered by Mrs. Thompson Kobata Chima, an Assistant Director at the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH).
Mrs. P.C. Monwuba, an ex-official of NAFDAC lectured on the subject: “International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – Introduction, Articles, Provisions and The Relevant Subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) Resolutions”, while “Overview Of The National Regulations On The Marketing Of Breastmilk Substitutes” was treated by Mrs. U>A> Bobboi, a NAFDAC chief. Mr. Abdulsalam Ozigis, another expert at NAFDAC, spoke on the “Roles And Responsibilities Of The Media In Implementing And Monitoring The Code/National Regulations In Private Medical Facilities.
In the course of the workshop, participants had specific focus on the review of the existing violations, provisions of the Code and Nigeria’s national regulations on BMS.
Challenges faced in curbing violators of BMS Code, need for stakeholders to join forces with regulatory organs in curbing the menace and the way forward were also discussed during the interactive sessions of the workshop.
The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly (WHA) in 1981. Since the adoption of the Code, and in order to strengthen and further clarify some of its provisions, several subsequent relevant WHA resolutions have been adopted to ensure the achievement of the principles and aims of the Code whose original provisions are read in conjunction with the subsequent relevant WHA resolutions
Organizers of the workshop expressed satisfaction with the worthy contributions and searching questions thrown up by the participants. They said the event was the best they have had on the subject and related issues in terms of organizer-participant intellectual discourse.