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FHI 360's Alive & Thrive program contributes to revisions in maternity leave policy and advertisement law in Vietnam

July 01, 2012

During its 13th Session, Vietnam's National Assembly approved an increase of maternity leave from four to six months and an extension of a current ban on the advertising of breast milk substitutes from six to 24 months.

FHI 360's Alive & Thrive (A&T) program in Vietnam creates an enabling environment for improved infant and young child feeding practices through advocating for appropriate policies and implementing a comprehensive delivery model. The A&T team has worked closely over the past few years with UNICEF, the World Health Organization and several Vietnamese government partners, notably the Ministry of Health; the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; the Women's Union; the General Confederation of Labor and the Institute of Legislative Studies, to advocate actively for both of these policy revisions.

On June 18th, the Assembly voted to extend paid maternity leave from four to six months. The new maternity leave standards will be effective May 1, 2013. The Assembly also voted to grant additional leave for women who have multiple births. A mother bearing twins, for example, would be entitled to seven months of leave. Vietnam's Social Insurance Fund has confirmed that it will be able to cover the costs associated with an additional two months of maternity leave.

The Labor Code revision, passed by 456 out of 460 votes, is a bold departure from other maternity leave policies in Southeast Asia. Maternity leave is one key factor to ensuring that mothers have the support they need to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six full months as recommended by the World Health Organization.

On June 22, Vietnam's leadership also approved a ban on the advertisement of breast milk substitutes for up to 24 months, as well as other nutrition products/foods for children under six months, feeding bottles and teats.

The revision in the advertisement regulations aligns Vietnam's law more closely with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and will help ensure that mothers and families receive the best information on optimal nutrition for their children. According to a report from the Ministry of Health, the percentage of Vietnamese mothers who breastfeed is much lower than the global average. In Vietnam, less than 20 percent of babies are exclusively breastfed during the first six months, while the world average is about 33 percent. Over the last decade, the breastfeeding rate in Vietnam has decreased dramatically, from 34 percent in 1998 to 19 percent in 2010.

Nemat Hajeebhoy, Director of FHI 360's Alive & Thrive Project in Vietnam, and her team worked diligently with key stakeholders to advocate for these policy transformations. "These changes are tremendously important for maternal and child health in Vietnam, and FHI 360 is thrilled to have played a role in contributing to these important changes," said Ms. Hajeebhoy. "Extension in maternity leave will ensure better care for both mothers and children, and an extended ban on advertising milk substitutes will help improve breastfeeding rates."