The devastating earthquake this week in Haiti again brings to the forefront the issue of infant feeding in emergencies. You might recall how dangerous it is for relief efforts to send artificial baby milk to disaster sites due to a lack of sanitary water, inadequate supplies, the increased risk of deadly respiratory infections and diarrhea in non-breastfed babies, and poor access to medical care.
So if you choose to donate to an organization involved in the relief efforts in Haiti, please consider choosing an organization that supports breastfeeding in emergencies. As a starting place to determine which agency in your home country to support, the Emergency Nutrition Network (ENN) has a list of key resources and policies on infant and young child feeding in emergencies. On that page you can find links to a list of agencies that have been involved in policy guidance and implementation on infant feeding. The ENN also has a list of its supporters around the world.
Before I considered this issue, I chose to donate to the American Red Cross International Response Fund. When I researched the issue of infant feeding in emergencies, I was pleased to see the Red Cross among the list of ENN supporters. I did a little more poking around the American Red Cross website and saw this information on preventative efforts in Haiti before the most recent earthquake:
The American Red Cross has partnered with the Haitian National Red Cross Society to reduce deaths attributed to malaria and malnutrition. Haiti has the highest infant and maternal mortality rates in the Western Hemisphere, much of which has been attributed to the threats of malaria and insufficient diet. The propensity for hurricanes and other natural disasters to strike the country create an additional health and safety burden.
This program addresses some of these threats to public healthy by distributing insecticide-treated mosquito netting to communities, providing nutrition, food preparation and breast-feeding trainings at the household level, and educating people about other health services. The total number of Haitians assisted by this program is expected to reach more than 50,000. This project is supported by the American Red Cross International Response Fund.
So, I am pleased that I chose the American Red Cross International Response Fund! What about you? Have you chosen to donate to disaster relief? Which organization did you choose and why?