Saturday, January 16, 2010

Infant feeding and disaster relief

Like everyone else, I've been reading/listening/watching the news reports from Haiti and it is just heart-wrenching to see so much need and be able to do so little. The impulse, of course, is to do something, not just donate - but the message seems to be getting through that what Haitians need right now is MONEY, given directly to the aid agencies that are on the ground. (Or as one story I saw put it, "Nobody needs your old shoes." At the very least, they might not mind your old shoes if you could teleport them there, but nobody wants to collect, sort, pack, ship, and distribute your old shoes when for a fraction of the time and the money they could just buy shoes and hand them out.)

With that in mind, Elita at Blacktating talks about how to help Haiti - especially why NOT to take part in any efforts that donate infant formula. While there may be some babies in Haiti who need infant formula, that should be provided in a systematic way by relief organizations that follow protocols around infant nutrition and help ensure that formula goes only to infants who truly cannot survive otherwise - not to breastfeeding infants who will be placed at greater risk.

The Emergency Nutrition Network has information about the dangers of infant formula provision in emergencies, and a list of Core Group members who are collaborating to improve infant and young child nutrition emergency response. From that list, I'm contributing to CARE, an organization which was already in Haiti at the time of the earthquake and is working to deliver immediate and long-term relief. I'm also contributing to Partners in Health, which was founded to target health problems in Haiti and has deep roots there (and yes, because I read "Mountains Beyond Mountains" and, like every public health student I know, idolize Paul Farmer/Partners in Health).

Thinking of all the people in Haiti and wishing fervently for the international outpouring of aid to make a difference for them.

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