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Last Updated: 22 hours 35 minutes agoHumanitarian organisations in Laos say they are concerned about unethical marketing practices by food giant Nestle, especially in concern to breast milk substitutes.
More than 20 organisations have written to the company saying they will not be applying for a development prize worth $US500,000.
Chris Mastaglio from ChildFund Laos has told Radio Australia’s Connect Asia program the company needs to be more responsible.
“Nestle needs to look at some of their materials, just to make sure that they are also encouraging breast feeding across all of the populations in Laos,” he said.
“Sometimes for example, breast milk substitutes are available not in native languages and there can be a misunderstanding, there can be confusion and so it’s just really ensuring there is consistency across everbody engaging with these very important issues.”
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Updated June 1, 2011 14:40:40
More than 20 humanitarian organisations have sent a letter to the food giant Nestle… saying they won’t be applying for a lucrative development prize sponsored by the company because of unethical marketing practises.
The letter was sent last week and says that “Babies and children are dying in Laos because food companies such as Nestles are weakening national regulatory frameworks and aggressively flooding the market with information that dilutes public health campaigns that promote breastfeeding”. Among the aid groups to sign on the boycott are World Vision, Save the Children, Oxfam and ChildFund Laos.
Presenter: Liam Cochrane
Speaker: Chris Mastaglio, country manager for ChildFund Laos
- Windows Media
MASTAGLIO: I think what we’d like to see is consistency across all of the sectors, I mean private sector including NGOs to ensure that children have got the chance of healthy growth. And we are an advocate for breastfeeding across all populations and I think Nestle needs to look at some of the materials just to make sure that they are also encouraging breastfeeding across all of the populations in Laos. Their engagement in schools, their engagement in communities, sometimes for example breast milk substitutes are available not in native languages, and there can be misunderstanding, there can be confusion, and so it’s just really ensuring that there’s consistency across everybody engaging with these really important issues and ensuring that children have got the opportunity to have a healthy upbringing.
COCHRANE: I understand though that company representatives are also going into hospitals and offering incentives for doctors and nurses to either allow or to promote their products as an alternative to breastfeeding. Is that a key part of the problem?
MASTAGLIO: There are instances of this happening and we would just, as NGOs we’re encouraging Nestle to be more open about this and to engage with NGOs to ensure that the international standards are being met, and in some cases we believe that this is not the case.
COCHRANE: Has there been any response to your letter from the company?
MASTAGLIO: At the moment there hasn’t been, but there will be further follow-up in country. I believe the letter was sent very recently and we haven’t had a response from the Nestle headquarters yet.
COCHRANE: Now look one of the other major problems in Laos and a recurring problem, is that of unexploded ordinance, bombs and bullets from past conflicts that continue to pose a threat to civilians. Now I understand you were just about to get involved in opening a local school. Can you tell us the situation there and the clearance activities that have gone on?
MASTAGLIO: So that’s right, we’re working up in Nong Het, which is in Xiangkhouang province in the north of the country. As I’m sure many people are aware there was around one ton of munitions dropped for every person in Laos up to 1975. Nong Het the district we work in is the second most contaminated district in the country, and the UXO issue here is quite phenomenal, I think it’s something that’s under many people’s radars. A school we opened yesterday in Paka village to clear the land to prepare for that school we had to take away 189 pieces of ordinance, and that was a huge undertaking to clear the soil, it was a very slow, painstaking process and we partnered with the UXO clearance organisation to do that. But this contamination is across the district and it affects so many things, construction, it’s affecting livelihoods, it’s affecting access to productive land, and without these issues being addressed I think it’s very difficult to address poverty in districts such as Nong Het.
COCHRANE: And tell us about the facility that you’re opening now, what will that be used for?
MASTAGLIO: So we’re working with the Ministry of Education here in Laos, and the facility that we’re opening will be a five classroom school, so it will cover kids from preschool up to grade 5. At the moment the village only has access to grade 1 and 2 education in a building that was built nearly 15 years ago, and it’s on its last legs. Kids who want to study to grade 3 and further have to walk an hour to school at the moment, so the construction of this facility is obviously giving kids education services in their village, and saving a two-hour walk every day.