Urgent action to promote the health and nutrition of infants and young children by governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the infantfood industry was called for by the WHO/UNICEF meeting of infant and young child feeding, which was held in Geneva from 9 to 12 October 1979.
The meeting, chaired by Professor F. T. Sai,* was concerned primarily with the development of practical measures to improve infant and young child feeding practices, and was attended by some 140 participants that included representatives of governments and United Nations specialized agencies, members of concerned nongovernmental organizations, and representatives from the infant-food industry. The themes for discussion at the meeting included:
- how to encourage and support breastfeeding;
- promotion and support of appropriate weaning practices;
- promotion of information, education and training of health workers concerning breastfeeding;
- the health and social status of women in relation to infant and young child feeding;
- appropriate marketing and distribution of breastmilk substitutes;
- suggested actions for governments and other groups.
The meeting adopted by consensus a Statement, which highlighted poor infant feeding practices and their consequences as “one of the world's major problems and a serious obstacle to social and economic development.” To a great extent it is a man-made problem which, despite three decades of efforts by national and international bodies, continues to take a heavy toll in deaths and long-term mental and physical disability.
In addition to the Statement, the meeting issued recommendations for urgent action concerning the matters discussed. The full text of the Statement and the recommendations is given below.