The southwestern Indian state of Kerala is this week being declared the world's first "baby-friendly" state under the World Health Organization-UNICEF Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, The Hindu reports.
Kerala is being rewarded for efforts to promote exclusive breast-feeding of infants for six months and supplementary breast-feeding beyond that age. The state began to promote the initiative in 1991 and has the country's lowest infant mortality rate, at 13 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared with an Indian average of 63. Kerala's life expectancy is the highest in India and is close to those of developed countries, The Hindu reports.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is an extension of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, which sets standards on the marketing of infant formulas, bottles and nipples. The initiative says it prevents 1 million deaths annually. A state or country can be declared baby-friendly if over 80 percent of its maternity hospitals are declared baby-friendly under the initiative (K.P.M. Basheer, The Hindu, July 31).