WBTiAUS Position Statement: Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies

Position Statement

In 2018 it was revealed that Australia had no planning for infant and young child feeding in emergencies. It was confirmed in a 2019 review of federal, state/territory and local policies. The federal government committed to developing a policy and plan in 2019 in the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy: 2019 and Beyond. But, in October 2020, despite the horrendous bushfire season in 2019-20 and the current COVID-19 pandemic, Australian mothers and infants are at risk of being left without adequate policies and support for infant and young child feeding in emergencies.

The need for this planning has been confirmed by researchers:

Without early initiation of breastfeeding, and ongoing exclusive breastfeeding infants and young children are at a higher risk in the short term of acquiring infections and of acquiring non-communicable diseases later in life (Horta, Bahl, Martines, & Victora, 2007). 

The commitment to this planning has been confirmed by the federal government:

‘Breastfeeding provides a safe and reliable method of infant feeding in emergencies, providing a consistent source of adequate nutrition and protection against infections’ (Australia. Department of Health, 2019).

The dignity of this planning has been recognised in international human rights treaties and declarations:

1981 The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (WHO Code)

1981 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child

1990 Innocenti Declaration on Infant and Young Child Feeding

1991 Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI)

2003 Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding (GSIYCF) 

2018 World Health Assembly (WHA) endorsement of WHA Resolution 71.9

recognizing that appropriate evidence-based and timely support of infant and young child feeding in emergencies save lives, protects child nutrition, health and development, and benefits mothers and families”. Urging Member States to: “take all necessary measures to ensure evidence-based and appropriate infant and young child feeding during emergencies, including through preparedness plans, capacity-building of personnel working in emergency situations, and coordination of intersectoral operations”.

In 2020 the WBTiAUS team supported by the Gender Institute, Australian National University (ANU) and the Tax and Transfer Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, College of Asia and the Pacific, ANU, and Mr. Alessandro Iellamo, Save The Children have been delivering a series of webinars to bring key people together to work towards ensuring the implementation of the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy.

A result of these webinars was the formation of an Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies ‘sub-group’ who have worked together to create our very first position statement supported by a Background Paper.

The Position Statement and Background Paper can be found here –