Saturday, April 18, 2015

Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda part-2: Rescuing Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Expert Support Team with mobile Breastfeeding Tent-Philippines  from the "Final Report on Breastfeeding Action-Lifeskills 8Jan2014"

"Even in the best, most hygienic conditions, artificially-fed babies are five times more likely to suffer diarrhoeal diseases.  In an emergency situation, even where bottle feeding is not normally associated with increased mortality in a non-emergency setting, infant feeding methods can become an issue of life or death.  Unsanitary, crowded conditions, a lack of safe water and a lack of facilities to sterilize feeding bottles and prepare formula safely and correctly means that artificially fed infants are more than 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoea and other infectious diseases than infants who are exclusively breastfed."  
"Infant feeding in emergencies:  experiences from Lebanon," by Ali Maclaine
Humanitarian Exchange Magazine Issue 37 March 2007

My previous post on Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda was in my mind unfinished.  Why? Because there seemed to me to be much more that needed to be shared. How do you impart through words the work of these dedicated women to protect and promote breastfeeding in the aftermath of such devastation?  The Philippine Breastfeeding Expert Support Team (BEST) understood the barriers to promoting and protecting breastfeeding and created solutions through the use of their mobile breastfeeding tents.  One of the barriers is that in the aftermath of an emergency, there is a deluge of infant formula donations.  There is a lack of understanding that even under the best circumstances, infant formula has risks.  During an emergency those risks escalate.

One of the most challenging aspects in the aftermath of a disaster is how to manage formula-fed infants knowing that these babies are at higher risk for morbidity and mortality.  The Philippine BEST group used a variety of strategies to help moms relactate.   Peer counselors helped educate and inspire mothers to breastfeed.  Hand expression was taught, confidence was given that the milk was there.  Wet nursing was used to help fed babies while they were transitioning to the mother's breasts.  Donor human milk was used to help those babies who lost their mothers.

The following is 17 pictures and inspiring stories of breastfeeding mothers in the Philippines.  The first slide is of Velvet Escario-Roxas, who has trained many breastfeeding peer counselors, is Executive Deputy Director at Arugaan (means "to fully nurture with a lifetime commitment," in Filipino) Toddler Center in Quezon, and was very involved in the mobile Breastfeeding Tent after the typhoon.  Also in these pictures is Bing Guevara who was also very involved in mobile breastfeeding tent after Typhoon Yolanda.

The founder of Arugaan in Quezon is Ma Ines Fernandez.  She is an inspiration to many.  She recently was made an Ashoka Fellow and I think the following video is helpful in understanding why she is such an inspiration.  Ashoka Fellows are "leading social entrepreneurs who are recognized for their innovative solutions to social problems...demonstrating unrivaled commitment to bold new ideas and prove that compassion, creativity and collaboration are tremendous forces for change."

I am inspired by this group of dedicated supporters and protectors of breastfeeding in the Philippines.  Hopefully, you will be, too!!  We need more programs like this around the world.  In heartfelt gratitude for the many people around the world who protect and promote breastfeeding.
Valerie W. McClain

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