This week, the story of how the United States obstructed the passage of a resolution on infant and young child feeding at the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva in May 2018 hit the mainstream media. The SafelyFed Canada team attended the WHA in support of the side event we co-sponsored, which featured a screening of Canadian director Noemi Weis’ film, Milk.

IYCF Resource Handout WHA71

IYCF Resource Handout WHA71

Along with many others in the breastfeeding and infant nutrition field around the world, we provided input to the draft text of the resolution that Ecuador had planned to put forward and were shocked and dismayed to see it set aside as the WHA got under way.

Country delegates and civil society organizations worked tirelessly throughout the week to ensure that a resolution would go forward. While a resolution did pass at the very end of the WHA, the watered-down version didn’t provide the endorsement of several key guidance documents and tools needed nor did it include the strong call to action for governments to implement those initiatives.

At SafelyFed Canada, we used our expertise and networks to encourage advocates around the world to apply pressure to their country delegations through the #holdtheline hashtag. Throughout the week, we distributed the handout created in collaboration with the IFE Core Group to highlight and bring attention to key guidance documents and reports, including the ones referenced in the original resolution while bringing attention to the two official IYCF side events taking place.

Canada supported the original resolution as well the weaker resolution that finally passed. Canada can now take a leadership role by putting renewed energy into the key initiatives that the World Health Organization, UNICEF and experts globally know are needed to improve the well-being of infants and their families, both at home and abroad.

At home:

  • Implement the Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant subsequent WHA resolutions, including mandatory requirements, enforcement and monitoring provisions
  • Reinvigorate the Baby-Friendly Initiative through increased technical support to the provinces and funding for the national accreditation body, the Breastfeeding Committee for Canada
  • Update the federal emergency social services manuals to reflect the Operational Guidance on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies and provide technical support and funding to provinces, municipalities and non-governmental organizations to ensure its rapid implementation


  • Acknowledging Canada’s feminist foreign policy, focus development aid on initiatives that have proven benefit for women and their children such advancing NetCode and the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • Integrate the requirements of the Operational on Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies into humanitarian funding criteria and support governments receiving aid to implement it as well

SafelyFed Canada exists to help Canadian communities protect and nurture their youngest children when disaster strikes. We focus on improving policy, training and preparedness across Canada, because we believe that every child in Canada should expect to be safely fed and every parent should expect to have the resources and support to do so.

While the WHA71 resolution fell short of what we hoped, Canada does not need to fall short of its obligations to keep infants and their families safe, well and thriving both at home and abroad. We look forward to supporting and cheering on these initiatives with our partners and collaborators across the country and around the world.