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IRELAND: Ireland to lay bare scandal of baby deaths at Church-run homes

Relatives have alleged the babies at mother and baby homes were mistreated because they were born to unmarried women.

 

Al Jazeera (12.01.2021) – https://bit.ly/3i783Zv – One of the Catholic Church’s darkest chapters will be revisited on Tuesday when an Irish inquiry into death rates among newborns at church-run homes for unwed mothers hands down its final report.

 

Relatives have alleged the babies at the mother and baby homes were mistreated because they were born to unmarried women who, like their children, were seen as a stain on Ireland’s image as a devout Catholic nation.

 

The 3,000-page report is due to be published by mid-afternoon following the five-year investigation by the Mother and Baby Homes Commission of Investigation.

 

It is expected to reveal that 9,000 children – one in seven – died in the 18 institutions investigated between 1922 and 1998, when the last one closed, according to a leaked version of the report obtained by the Sunday Independent, an Irish newspaper.

 

The institutions, which doubled as orphanages and adoption agencies, were established across Ireland throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

 

While run by nuns, they received state funding and were also regulated by the state.

 

Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Monday said the report into their history made for difficult reading.

 

“One of the things that hit me was the extent to which this was an enormous societal failure and an enormous societal shame that we have a stolen generation of children who did not get the upbringing they should have,” he told national broadcaster RTE.

 

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin is expected to issue a formal state apology to the victims in the country’s parliament on Wednesday.

 

Tuam ‘chamber of horrors’ prompts investigation

 

Tens of thousands of women, including rape victims, were sent to the homes to give birth.

 

Government records show that the mortality rate for children at the homes was often more than five times that of those born to married parents.

 

The commission into the institutions was formed in 2014 after evidence of an unmarked mass graveyard at an institution in Tuam, in the western county of Galway, was uncovered by amateur local historian Catherine Corless.

 

Corless found death certificates confirming that nearly 800 children had died at the site, but there were no burial records.

 

She said she had been haunted by childhood memories of skinny children from the home.

 

Excavations in 2017 revealed “significant quantities of human remains” in 20 underground chambers in a decommissioned sewage tank on the site’s grounds, the commission said in an interim report.

 

Then-Prime Minister Enda Kenny described the burial site at Tuam as a “chamber of horrors”.

 

The grim revelations have further tarnished the Catholic Church’s reputation in Ireland, which has been shattered in recent years by a series of tragedies that includes abuse at workhouses, forced adoptions of babies born out of wedlock and priests who have sexually assaulted children.

 

During the first papal visit to the country in almost four decades in 2018, Pope Francis begged for forgiveness for the scandals.





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Countries need to do more to stop harmful marketing of breast-milk substitutes, says UN

Despite efforts to stop the harmful promotion of breast-milk substitutes, countries are still falling short in protecting parents from misleading information, according to a new UN report released Wednesday.

UN News (27.05.2020) – https://bit.ly/2Y29KxB –  Titled Marketing of Breast‐milk Substitutes: National Implementation of the International Code – Status report 2020, the study highlights the need for stronger legislation to protect families from false claims about the safety of breast-milk substitutes or aggressive marketing practices, findings that take on increased importance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

The UN World Health Organization (WHO), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Baby Food Action Network collaborated in the report’s publication.

 

Impact of aggressive marketing

 

“The aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes, especially through health professionals that parents trust for nutrition and health advice, is a major barrier to improving newborn and child health worldwide,” says Francesco Branca, Director of WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety.

 

“Health care systems must act to boost parent’s confidence in breastfeeding without industry influence so that children don’t miss out on its lifesaving benefits.”

 

WHO and UNICEF encourage women to continue to breastfeed during the pandemic, even if they have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, as evidence indicate it is unlikely that COVID-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding. “The numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of illness associated with the virus,” the authors find.

 

Of the 194 countries analyzed, 136 have in place some form of legal measure related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly. While 44 countries have strengthened their regulations on marketing over the past two years, only 79 countries prohibit the promotion of breast-milk substitutes in health facilities, and only 51 have provisions banning the distribution of free or low-cost supplies within the health care system.

 

Further, only 19 countries have banned the sponsorship of professional association meetings by manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes, which include infant formula, follow-up formula and growing up milks marketed for use by infants and children up to 36-months old.

 

Trained healthcare professionals know best

 

WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for their first six months, after which they should continue breastfeeding – as well as eating other nutritious and safe foods – until two years of age, or beyond.

 

Babies who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times less likely to die than those who are not, the authors stress. Yet, only 41 per cent of infants 0–6 months old are exclusively breastfed, a rate WHO Member States have committed to increase to at least 50 per cent by 2025.

 

Inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes continues to undermine efforts to improve breastfeeding rates. Measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, such as physical distancing, meanwhile hamper community counselling and mother-to-mother support services for breastfeeding – leaving an opening for the breast-milk substitute industry to capitalize on the crisis.

 

“We must, more than ever, step up efforts to ensure that every mother and family receive the guidance and support they need from a trained health care worker to breastfeed their children, right from birth, everywhere,” stressed UNICEF Chief of Nutrition Victor Aguayo.

 

The Code bans all forms of promotion of breast-milk substitutes, including advertising, gifts to health workers and distribution of free samples. Labels cannot make nutritional and health claims or include images that idealize infant formula. Instead, labels must carry messages about the superiority of breastfeeding over formula and the risks of not breastfeeding.


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