Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Message from the Philippines

Maraming salamat.

Thank you so much to everyone who has signed our petition of solidarity with the Philippines. This will come to the crunch later this month as The Supreme Court is due to make its decision on the baby food marketing regulations, which are under attack from the baby food industry.

We have received the following message from our partners.

Thank you so much for your sincere help in our struggle to protect the Filipino mothers and children rights to breastfeeding as we encounter .. pressures from the milk - pharma companies greed for profits over health. Money walks, money talks in all levels of power in the media, medical societies, congress, supreme court. We are still hopeful.. as we wage people's action in legal system, mass action.

As we receive the solidarity messages from different countries, we are filled with heartfelt thanks and it motivated us to persevere as we fight for truth and justice for the cause of breastfeeding.

Maraming salamat. Thank you so much.

Ines Av. Fernandez on behalf of the People of the Philippines coalition for breastfeeding.

And it is great to receive organisations' endorsements for the campaign from not only our own IBFAN Europe network of 58 groups, but from the other side of the planet, such as from the Infant Feeding Association of New Zealand and the Australian Lactation Consultants Association.

The Philippines campaigners are truly amazing. Just look at this UNICEF report on the mass mobilisation of one thousand mothers in September over this case. See http://www.unicef.org/philippines/news/060901.html

It begins:

More than a thousand breastfeeding mothers together with civic organizations unite to protect breastfeeding through a forum and a colorful public display of a thousand slogan umbrellas at the Risen Garden, Quezon City Hall. The slogans, written in English, Filipino and local dialects, embodied the voice and sentiments of the mothers in light of the Supreme Court's recent decision to temporarily suspend the implementation of the Executive Order 51 or the Philippine Milk Code. The code aims to protect mothers and infants through promoting breastfeeding and regulating advertisements of breastmilk substitutes.

But it is so difficult to gain media coverage for these issues in the Philippines. Milks (including baby milks and whole milks) are the third most heavily advertised product there, the bulk of it being imported. Meaning print media in particular appears loath to report on pressure from companies against the baby milk marketing regulations. According to a market analysis report, we have been told, the spend on advertising powdered milk (baby and whole milk) in the first 6 months of 2006 was 2.6 billion pesos (£27 million or US$52 million).

In the past we have exposed a television station being threatened with the removal of advertising for running programmes on aggressive marketing practices.

So we need publicity in the rest of the world to shame what the baby food companies are doing in trying to weaken the government's regulations through legal action, what the US Chamber of Commerce has done in pressuring the President to interfere in the court decision by suggesting investment is at risk.

If you are a journalist, know a journalist or have other contacts in the media, please look at this story. It is a life and death struggle with mothers from some of the poorest villages in the Philippines mobilising to take on the might of US and Swiss transnational corporations. See our press release at http://www.babymilkaction.org/press/press9nov06.html

The World Health Organisation estimates 16,000 Filipino under-5 children die every year through inappropriate feeding. Nearly half the population (47.5%) lives on less than US$2 per day, 15% don..t have access to an improved water source, and nearly 30% to improved sanitation (UNDP Human Development Report 2006).

Get this. According to the UNDP Human Development Report, sanitation figures hide key facts. Like only 4% of the population of Manila are connected to a sewer network.

The problem is that sludge treatment and disposal facilities are rare. The result: indiscriminate disposal of inadequately treated effluents into the Pasig River..a complex network of waterways that links the Laguna de Bay Lake to Manila Bay through a huge urban conurbation. Another 35 tons of solid domestic waste is deposited in the Pasig annually by squatters dwelling in makeshift settlements on the river's banks. In total, some 10 million people discharge untreated waste into the river. This has serious consequences for public health. The Pasig is one of the world..s most polluted rivers, with human waste accounting for 70% of the pollution load. Faecal coliform levels exceed
standards set by the Department of the Environment and Natural resources by several orders of magnitude..and around one-third of all illness in Manila is water related. The 4.4 million people living along the river face particularly acute problems, especially during the floods in the June to October rainy season. During the low flow season the Pasig River reverses direction and carries pollution into Laguna Lake, creating further public health problems.

This report was launched on 9 November (that's another news peg, journalist friends). In the reality it described in the Philippines, the baby food industry is using every tool in its armoury to try to undermine regulations on the marketing of baby milks.

This is a struggle where the might of transnationals is countered by a thousand mothers with coordinated umbrellas! What a great story! What a great image!

See our press release. We can provide rock-solid evidence and data, pictures and interviews.

This story needs to be told. Please help.

Maraming salamat. Thank you so much.

1 comment:

Denise Arcoverde said...

Hi, Mike! congratulations for creating this blog, it is an amazing tool for social mobilization, it]s a shame that very few NGOs understood this. Origem~s blog is already more than 3 years old: http://www.grupoorigem.blogger.com.br/index.html

I will translate part of this post and put in my blog and hope that we can get more support.

Say HI to Sonia :-)

Love to you both.