Breastfeeding best, avoid infant formula, milk powder, Sri Lanka flood victims told
ECONOMYNEXT – The World Health Organization (WHO) has advised Sri Lanka’s flood and landslide victims to continue breastfeeding of infants and avoid “potentially harmful” use of infant formula and powdered milk where clean water may not be available.
“Giving infant formula during a disaster situation can easily create a double disaster, as infants given formula will invariably develop diarrheal diseases and lead to higher risk of death,” a statement said.
The advice came in a joint statement by Ministry of Health, Nutrition & Indigenous Medicine, WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighting the importance of breastfeeding during emergencies.
It cautioned against donations of breast milk substitutes which can have a negative impact on infant’s health.
“Due to the risks associated with the preparation of formula and powdered milk in an emergency situation where clean water, clean pots and cooking facilities are not available, the health risks to infants who are not breastfed is significantly higher,” the statement said.
“Donations of formula milk increase the vulnerability of infants exposing them to infection, diarrhea and other severe complications. Hence donations of formula milk or powdered milk must be avoided in emergencies.”
The joint statement said that in emergency situations where food supplies and access to safe water is extremely limited, infants and children in affected areas remain highly vulnerable to diarrhea and other diseases.
“Breast milk can provide the critical nutrients and immune support to infants which can help protect against infections,” it said.
“The health risks for babies who are not breastfed can be significantly higher. Every effort should be taken to protect and support breastfeeding among all breastfeeding mothers affected by the disaster.”
All infants up to 6 months of age should be exclusively breastfed even during a time of disaster, the statement said.
(COLOMBO, May 27 2016)