MANILA, Philippines – The National Nutrition Council (NNC) advises people against donating infant formula milk to victims of the recent earthquakes that rocked Cotabato and other parts of Mindanao last week.
This is to avoid diarrhea among evacuees.
According to Maria Lourdes Vega of the NNC, infant formula milk donations are discouraged because there is no assurance of clean water in crisis and disaster-struck areas. She said it is important that children receive breast milk, as it eliminates the risk of diarrhea.
Vega gave assurances that the Department of Health (DOH) had mobilized breasfeeding support groups to affected areas in Mindanao, and that so far they had not received reports that the teams encountered difficulties.
The support groups consist of counselors who talk to distressed mothers and gradually convince them to breastfeed their children. This is because mothers with post-traumatic stress may find it difficult to breastfeed like they usually do. These breastfeeding support groups are deemed integral to the DOH's mental health response in the wake of disasters.
Vega said infant formula milk should be considered "the last resort" in post-crisis and disaster situations, meaning they should only be given when there is absolutely no breast milk nor wet nurses available in the area. The infant formula milk, where used, must also be centrally prepared by health and nutrition workers deployed to areas where disaster struck.
Vega also reiterated that the DOH has administrative orders (AOs) in place detailing guidelines for milk and other donations in disaster areas.
DOH AO 2005-0014 says that "donations of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles, teats, and commercial baby foods should be limited, if not refused." Bottles and teats should also not be donated nor distributed, as cup feeding is the preferred method.
Meanwhile, DOH AO 2016-0004 likewise states: “Infant formula, breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles, artificial nipples, and teats shall not be items for donation. No acceptance of donation shall be issued for any of the enumerated items.”