The Penang state government may be interested in promoting the state as a centre for meetings and conventions – but the state already has a reputation for being a hub for civil society activities, not just nationally but globally as well.
Over the weekend, two global forums were held – the Friends of the Earth International Asia Pacific forum “Ecological equity: Sharing the stories, reclaiming our rights” and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action’s Global Breastfeeding Partners Forum.
I dropped by to find out what was being said at each forum. At Waba’s forum, delegates were pleased to hear that the maternity leave for Malaysian civil servants would be extended to 90 days (which is 12 weeks, still well short of the ILO target of 40 weeks.) And what about private sector employees? Still 60 days? Shouldn’t the 90-day maternity leave be included in our labour laws?
Back in 1998, Malaysia became only the third nation in the world to have all its hospitals deemed to be ‘baby friendly’. But today only 15 per cent of babies in the country are exclusively breastfed compared to the WHO average of 35 per cent. The target is 100 per cent, but those promoting breast-feeding have to contend with the huge advertising and promotion budgets -and the clout – of the multinationals promoting infant formula.
Malaysian Breastfeeding Association president Siti Norjinah Moin revealed that there are now 133 baby-friendly hospitals in the country: 123 government hospitals (which is nearly all except a handful), two military hospitals, two university hospitals and only six private hospitals. Say what? Just six?
According to Wikipedia, a hospital would have to meet the following criteria before it can be known as ‘baby friendly’:
- Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
- Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
- Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
- Help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one half-hour of birth.
- Show mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
- Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, not even sips of water, unless medically indicated.
- Practice rooming in – that is, allow mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
- Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
- Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies or soothers) to breastfeeding infants.
- Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic
The programme also restricts use by the hospital of free formula or other infant care aids provided by formula companies.
When you consider that there are over 200 private hospitals in the country, why is it that only half a dozen of them are ‘baby friendly’?
I suspect the restriction on the promotion of formula milk in ‘baby friendly’ hospitals could be one of the reasons that private hospitals are reluctant to come on board.