Throughout history humans have been on the move, migrating due to famine, war, persecution, and to find a better life. In a new age of “zero tolerance” policies and deeming humans “illegal” it is important to understand that how global policy defines someone matters.
There are many terms for populations that are fleeing disasters and we have to understand globally accepted terms for populations on the move.
- Asylum-seekers are people “whose request for sanctuary has yet to be processed”. Every nation has their own asylum system to determine who qualifies for protection and how they request this protection. If the petition for protection does not meet the host country’s criteria the individual may be deported to their home country.
- Internally displaced people have not crossed any borders to seek safety but have moved to another location within their home country seeking safety or shelter.
- Refugees are people who are forced to flee their home country in order to seek safety from conflict or persecution. This group of people are protected under international law and are not to be sent back to the situation where their safety is at risk.
- Migrants are people who choose to move for work, education, family unification, etc. These people can go back to their home country and continue to be protected by their home country government.
- Undocumented migrant is a person who has entered a country without proper documentation, or their immigration status expired while in the host country and they have not renewed their status, or they were denied legal entry/immigration into their host country but have remained in the host country.
- Statelessness is someone who does not have a nationality. Individuals can be born stateless or become stateless due to nationality laws which discriminate against certain genders, ethnicities, or religions, or the emergence or dissolving of countries.
These international definitions are important, because it determines if, how, and when the international community can respond to crisis situations. A large caveat is that due to national sovereignty under international law a nation must request that international organizations like UNHCR provide international assistance to these particular communities. If nations do not request assistance or reject assistance then these populations are left without any sort of protection leaving them vulnerable and isolated, as seen with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. The international community has also seen the inhumane treatment of people seeking protection to include isolated detention on islands such as is currently used in Australia.
No matter how the international community defines these populations, they face poor health outcomes due to disease, economic stress, and trauma. Examples include:
- An increase in child brides among Syrian and Rohingya refugee populations. This in turn affects infant and maternal mortality rates as well as the woman’s future economic prospects.
- Malnutrition of both mother and child leading to increased death rates for children under five and stunting of growth in children that survive. This is currently being seen in Yemen.
- Decreased breastfeeding rates due to maternal stress, disease, and separation from familial groups/support systems. An increase in breastmilk substitutes in refugee or displaced persons camps is also an issue that goes against international humanitarian policies.
- During the Mediterranean refugee crisis the international community witnessed large groups of people risking their lives on overfilled boats that often sank, causing large scale loss of life. These refugees then faced xenophobia, closed borders, and detention upon their arrival.
- Currently in the United States there has been an increase in detaining families and child migrants from Latin American countries for an indeterminate amount of time. Organizations like American Academy of Pediatrics have begun to discuss long term effects this type of detention has on child and adolescent health outcomes such as: high risk of psychological stress that may lead to anxiety and depression due to separation and forced detention, suicidal ideations, victims of assault by other children in these detention centers, or sexual assaults from other detainees or employees at these facilities.
- In South America sovereign nations have closed their borders or placed restrictive regulations on Venezuelan migrants seeking food, shelter, and basic medical care for their families amid a massive economic crisis. Not only do these migrants face arduous journeys, but they also face poor health outcomes like malnutrition due to starvation, and the potential for contracting diseases due to poor sanitary conditions, and consuming non-potable water.
- Migrants are a vulnerable population who can succumb to human trafficking and the modern slave trade along their migration routes. Migrants that are caught up in human trafficking often face abuse (mental and physical), serious injury from due to extreme work conditions, and exposure to communicable diseases from overcrowded and unsanitary living environments.
Humans take immense risks to seek safety and new opportunities that they did not have in their home country. As an international public health community, whether we work in crisis situations or not, we must make it a priority to treat all humans in a humane manner. Health is a human right, and should be guaranteed for all.
World breastfeeding week takes place from August 1st to 7th this year. This year’s theme is Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life.
There are tools for all of your advocacy and information needs!
WHO has infographics and webinar information: http://www.who.int/news-room/events/detail/2018/08/01/default-calendar/world-breastfeeding-week-2018
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has an action folder in several languages (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/actionfolder/) and a social media toolkit (http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/social-media-kit/).
WABA is also hosting a Thunderclap! Those who join will automatically share the same breastfeeding message at the same time across FaceBook and Twitter on August 1. https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/70825-world-breastfeeding-week-2018
In related news: In the U.S., Idaho and Utah recently passed bills legalizing breastfeeding in public for their residents. It is now legal in all 50 U.S. states to breastfeed in public. Appropriately, this week also kicks off our own National Breastfeeding Month in the U.S. (http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/nbm).
- Week 1: Policy Pulse
Finding Solutions: Small policy changes can go a long way toward supporting breastfeeding families
- Week 2: Special Circumstances & Emergency Preparedness
Always Ready: Resources and guidance on how to manage feeding during an emergency
- Week 3: Call to Action
Answering the Call: Everyone can help make breastfeeding easier
- Week 4: Black Breastfeeding Week
Love on Top: On top of joy, on top of grief, on top of everything
Happy messaging! Support breastfeeding everyday!
Are you aware that representatives from the U.S. sided with commercial infant formula industry interests at the expense of babies during the recent World Health Assembly (WHA) meeting in Geneva?
U.S. officials at the meeting proposed the adoption of language that would have allowed this industry unrestricted ability to aggressively market breast milk substitutes as part of a WHA resolution on infant and young child feeding that included breastfeeding. Finally, the original wording of the resolution was mostly maintained. However, Ecuador had already been forced to withdraw its sponsorship of the resolution due to U.S. threats to withdraw military and commercial support if they didn’t, instilling fear in all other smaller countries of similar retaliation from the U.S. that may persist into the future. Russia stepped up at the end to sponsor the resolution because they said they support breastfeeding!
Support the best nutrition for babies everywhere.
Urge your U.S. Representatives to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding!
Act now by calling or writing your U.S. Representatives. Need the contact information for your representatives?
The issue and the circumstances are well articulated by two articles found in News Deeply and The New York Times.
For more information about IH Section’s Policy and Advocacy Committee activities, contact:
Kevin Sykes, PhD, MPH and Elizabeth Holguin, MPH, MSN, FNP-BC
APHA, International Health Section Policy and Advocacy Committee Co-Chairs
Statement from Georges Benjamin, MD, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
Washington, D.C., July 9, 2018 – “We are stunned by reports of U.S. opposition to a resolution at the World Health Assembly this spring aimed at promoting breastfeeding. According to news stories, U.S. officials attempted to block a resolution encouraging breastfeeding and warning against misleading marketing by infant formula manufacturers.
“Fortunately, the resolution was adopted with few changes, but it is unconscionable for the U.S. or other government to oppose efforts that promote breastfeeding. The consequences of low rates of breastfeeding are even greater for the health of children in resource-poor countries.
“Breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective interventions for improving maternal and child health. Breastfeeding provides the best source of infant nutrition and immunologic protection. Babies who are breastfed are less likely to become overweight and obese, and have fewer infections and improved survival during their first year of life. Breastfed infants often need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions and hospitalizations. In addition maternal bonding is increased, a benefit to both mother and child.
“The scientific evidence overwhelmingly supports breastfeeding and its many health benefits for both child and mother. The American Public Health Association has long supported exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding through at least the first year of life. APHA also strongly supports policies that encourage breastfeeding at home, maternity hospitals and birth centers and the workplace, and help identify women most in need of support of breastfeeding practices.
“In cases where mothers are unable to breastfeed, there are evidence-based solutions to protect the mom and ensure the baby thrives. The solution to malnutrition and poverty is not infant formula, but improved economic development and access to domestic and international nutrition and food programs.”
APHA champions the health of all people and all communities. We strengthen the public health profession. We speak out for public health issues and policies backed by science. We are the only organization that influences federal policy, has a nearly 150-year perspective and brings together members from all fields of public health. Learn more at www.apha.org.
World wide roughly 200 million children under the age of five, in low and middle income countries, will fail to meet basic developmental milestones. Such deficits affect health across the lifespan, the ability to contribute to the national economy, and the ability to stop the cycle of poverty. With this knowledge in mind the United Nations made a point of linking their sustainable development goals to children’s issues, specifically early childhood development (ECD). Recently the G20, with Argentina as the new chair, have placed an emphasis on ECD in the international community by adding it to their own sustainability goals. The G20 has recognized that ECD must be incorporated into all programs, not just within child centric programs and that an emphasis must be placed on children under five years of age.
Programmatic areas have remained siloed focusing on nutrition and ensuring school aged children receive an education. While these initiatives play a role in ECD they only focus on topical areas and do not formally integrate ECD, newborn to age five, into programmatic work. The G20 has created a case for cross collaboration within programmatic and policy level work, even laying out funding streams for such work. This puts the G20 in line with World Health Organization guidelines, including guidelines around integration of ECD in emergency situations. When you are already servicing families and their children, especially in low income programmatic settings, it is easy to add in basic ECD education. For example, when providing breastfeeding support to mothers this is a wonderful opportunity to briefly discuss the need to talk and sing to the child in order to develop language acquisition. Another example is to provide pamphlets, that match the health literacy level of the community, around positive parenting and age appropriate milestones at an immunization drive.
ECD doesn’t just apply to children – it applies directly to the child’s environment: families, caregivers, and national leadership. ECD focuses a lot on positive parenting to encourage positive brain development and language acquisition. The World Health Organization just released a guideline that discusses nurturing care within ECD, highlighting strategies and policies focusing on the environment that impacts ECD. A really interesting piece that the G20 highlights is the need for better trained child care providers. The G20 ties it back to economics – if a family, mothers in particular, feels comfortable leaving their child in the care of someone else they are able to contribute to their local and national economy in a greater way. There is also the money saving aspect for countries who invest in programs that promote ECD in children under the age of five. As discussed in the literature, children’s brains are rapidly developing arguably from in the womb through the first 1,000 days of life, and programs that focus on this age group provide a larger cost saving than programs that focus on children over five. This is because potential developmental delays are prevented, thus not as much money is needed to get a child back on their developmental track. Also, at such a young age with the focus predominantly being on environmental factors the cost is solely around training and educating front line staff, not actual school aged interventions.
Again – it is great news to have a group like G20 make ECD a priority, especially for children under five. It brings the topic back to the front of the global health stage and proves that it can be easily incorporated into programmatic work.