In the light of the prevailing situation in Marawi City and the other areas where families and their children have been relocated—the Department of Health, the National Nutrition Cluster, and development partners reiterate the call to protect, promote, and support infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices in disaster areas.

Breastmilk remains to be the standard food for infants and young children during these situations. The use of breastmilk substitutes and artificial milk formula products are known to pose a higher risk of infections such as diarrhea and pneumonia especially in the absence of clean, potable water and sanitary facilities.

Republic Act 10821, otherwise known as “An Act Mandating the Provision of Emergency Relief and Protection for Children Before, During, and After Disasters and Other Emergency Situations,” mandates that vulnerable groups in these situations must be given safe spaces for rehabilitation after dire situations such as this.

“Women can continue breastfeeding during emergencies, most especially when the community supports them, despite misconceptions that they cannot,” states DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell–Ubial.

She urges all concerned government agencies—including DOH hospitals, stakeholders, and the community to ensure that women are provided with mother and child-friendly spaces where they could continue breastfeeding infants and young children. Moreover, children aged 6 months and above should receive appropriate complementary foods in addition to breastmilk. Meanwhile, Secretary Ubial also stressed that current logistics support is sufficient and that there is no need for in-kind donations.

Milk formula donations are prohibited in accordance to Executive Order 51 (the Philippine Milk Code) and DOH Administrative Order 2007–0017 (Guidelines on the Acceptance and Processing of Local and Foreign Donations During Emergency and Disaster Situations). Cash or in-kind donations coming from manufacturers, sales, and marketing groups affiliated with milk companies and baby food products must secure permission from the Interagency Committee (IAC) for EO 51 through the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Food Regulation and Research (FDA-CFRR). The public is encouraged to report any violation of the EO 51 and other related issuances to the IAC Secretariat at (02) 857 1900.