Foreign Policy Blogs

Infant's Rights to Nutrition

Children's rights are not always what you think they are, no one needs to tell you that sexual exploitation, slavery, rape, etc. are crimes against children and that these crimes infringe on a child's rights.  Issues such as poverty, nutrition, education, literacy, and other such issues areas are also part of children's rights, these are fundamental rights of each and every child.  So who's responsibility is the nutrition of a child?  Is it left only to the mother or caregiver?  What if that person is unable to adequately provide for an infant, then who does the responsibility fall to?

We all know that meeting the nutritional needs of  children is an issue everywhere, even in developed countries.  In the last few years the UK and the US have both had a number of issues and structural changes to school lunch programs.  The issues that have been raised in the UK and US are more about choices and habits than the unavailability of quality nutritional foods, but in the developing world it is nutritional necessity.  Please don't get me wrong, nutrition is a right and necessity of each and every child, and if a child in the US is not having their nutritional needs met we must correct the situation.  Every child has the right to a healthy life and we must insure that this right is not violated.

Recently I was reading up on the International Breast Milk Project an organization that sends breast milk to critically ill, or orphaned infants in Africa, as well as critically ill infants in the US.  The project was started by Jill Youse, who came up with the project by accidental necessity, when looking for a way to donate her own unused breast milk to Africa.  The World Health Organization and UNICEF both recommend that an infant is solely breast fed for the first six months of life, however this is nothing but impossible for many infants.  There are a number of reasons why a child would not be able to be breast fed, including that fact that some mothers are just not able to produce enough milk, a mother has a transmittable disease, a mother is on certain medications or a child has been left motherless.


Milk banks in the US have grown over the years and getting milk to infants in need in the US has grown in both ease and availability.  However the need for breast milk in Africa is currently at a near crisis level due to the level of orphaned and infants whose mothers are unable to breast feed.  The need for breast milk in Africa is heavily increased by the high percentage of HIV/AIDS, which can still be transmitted through the breast milk of an infected mother.  The epidemic has also increased the number of abandoned and orphaned children Additionally formula is not always a suitable option due to unclean water supplies.  The high nutritional value of breast milk makes it a high commodity throughout much of the continent.

"An estimated 800,000 children under the age of 15 contracted HIV in 2001, around 90 per cent of them through mother-to-child transmission. The vast majority of HIV-infected mothers live in Africa, as do the children living with AIDS." – UNICEF


The nutrition of a newborn or infant child is critical and it will set the foundation for their future, it is not the responsibility of the mother alone and we must all look for ways we can see that the worlds children are properly cared for.  As they say it takes a village to raise a child, but I believe that it takes the world to raise a child.  I look forward to seeing the International Breast Milk project grow and develop in the near future and will keep a close eye on the issue.

Relevant articles and organizations:

UNICEF on nutrition and breastfeeding

UNICEF Nutrition Table by Country

Child Info – UNICEF Statistics

The World Health Organization (WHO) on infant feeding and related topics

World Vision Report "Breast Milk for Africa'

Human Milk Banking Association of North America

International Breast Milk Project

iThemba Lethu Breast Milk Bank

"Mothers avoid breastfeeding violates children's right to a healthy life'

"Breast Milk Saves Lives in Africa'

"Time; Putting Breast Milk to Good Use'

"Foreign Policy Article, Seven Questions: The International Breast Milk Project'



Cassandra Clifford

Cassandra Clifford is the Founder and Executive Director of Bridge to Freedom Foundation, which works to enhance and improve the services and opportunities available to survivors of modern slavery. She holds an M.A., International Relations from Dublin City University in Ireland, as well as a B.A., Marketing and A.S., Fashion Merchandise/Marketing from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.

Cassandra has previously worked in both the corporate and charity sector for various industries and causes, including; Child Trafficking, Learning Disabilities, Publishing, Marketing, Public Relations and Fashion. Currently Cassandra is conducting independent research on the use of rape as a weapon of war, as well as America’s Pimp Culture and its Impact on Modern Slavery. In addition to her many purists Cassandra is also working to develop a series of children’s books.

Cassandra currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area, where she also writes for the Examiner, as the DC Human Rights Examiner, and serves as an active leadership member of DC Stop Modern Slavery.

Areas of Focus:
Children's Rights; Human Rights; Conflict