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Archived Comments for: Infant feeding, poverty and human development

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  1. Does "poverty' threaten breastfeeding?

    Valerie McClain, N/A

    29 November 2007

    Is "poverty" threatening breastfeeding? It is stated in this article that, "Among developed countries there is a conventional wisdom that poverty 'protects' breastfeeding in developing countries." I have not heard this before except in the referenced article from the JHL by Dr. Martha Morrow. What I have often heard and seen written is a statement made by the late James P. Grant, past Executive Director of UNICEF, "Breastfeeding is a natural safety net against the worst effects of poverty."

    While the statements are similiar in some respects, having some of the same words, they are different.

    Is it poverty that threatens breastfeeding? Or is it capitalism, lack of ownership of property, and rampant consumerism that threatens breastfeeding. If we blame poverty for threatening breastfeeding, then eliminate poverty and we save breastfeeding. Yet, I don't think that will happen because it isn't poverty that is the threat. Poverty is the result of a capitalistic system that has lost its ethical backbone.

    Breastfeeding women (the poor as well as the wealthy) around the world are threatened by corporate greed for ownership of natural resources (including human milk components)and profiteering. The lust for wealth without responsibility impacts us all.

    Competing interests


  2. Children can be saved without ending poverty

    George Kent, Department of Political Science, University of Hawaii

    14 January 2008

    Annette Beasley and Lisa Amir’s essay on “Infant feeding, poverty and human development” (IBJ 2007, 2:14) concludes, “Until such time that established poverty indicators are addressed and eliminated, the opportunity of optimal growth and development among at risk infants will continue to be denied.” This is a message of despair and hopelessness, but fortunately it does not follow from their analysis.

    Many infants are denied the opportunity of optimal growth even where there is little poverty. The authors did not present any evidence that reducing poverty itself leads to improved breastfeeding practices. Indeed, increasing income is often associated with worsening breastfeeding practices. We should watch the current ongoing demonstration in China, for example.

    If we want to reduce child mortality, or if we want to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding, we need a systematic strategy for accomplishing that, whether at the national level or the global level. The WHO/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding is not really a strategy; it does not set out a clear goal and specific steps for reaching that goal. Similarly, the Millennium Development Program and now the End Childhood Hunger and Undernutrition Initiative (ECHUI) do not present serious strategies. Lancet often provides us with lots of good background information about child mortality, but no serious strategy for reducing it.

    Child mortality persists at around ten million or more deaths of children under five every single year. Hoping for the end of poverty is not enough. There is a need for serious strategies and serious commitments of human and material resources if we are to respect every child’s right to a full life.

    Aloha, George Kent

    Competing interests

    No competing interests.