| Azlan Othman |
MOTHERS yesterday praised the government’s move to provide breast pumps and disposable diapers for newborns.
During budget deliberations for 2017-2018 on Tuesday, the Ministry of Finance stated that in support of the initiative to create a healthy society, the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam through the Ministry of Health will introduce an assistance scheme for mothers of newborns, who are citizens and permanent residents.
The assistance given are in the form of disposable diapers for every newborns for 12 months from the date of birth; and assistance in the form of a breast-pump given at every birth of a child or for two years, subject to which period is longer.
Suzie, a mother of two, said this will encourage mothers to breast feed their babies until two years and reduce the use of infant formula milk where the price for a tin of powdered milk could be priced over $40 which is financially tough, especially for low income earners.
“Breast feeding also keeps babies away from diseases,” she told the Weekend Bulletin.
Lin, a mother of four, said diapers are priced at $15 per pack and added that some infants were allergic to cheaper brands of diapers due to their skin sensitivity. “Some even cross the border to the neighbouring towns like Miri or Limbang to buy and stockpile these diapers,” she said.
Social media was abuzz with the announcement, requesting day care centres or nurseries be set up for mothers at government buildings to look after their babies and for mothers to breast feed easily.
“We urge employers to relax work rules, especially for those who return after maternity leave,” Liza said.
“Some do not provide facilities for breastfeeding at workplaces while some mothers have to go to isolated places to pump milk as the workplaces had no proper places,” she said. “Infants are up at odd hours in the morning and mothers who wake up to breastfeed, are sometimes tired at the office. Employers should understand this.”
Meanwhile, the government’s move to tax soft drinks with a high sugar content also received applause from the public.
Drinks with a high sugar content from six grammes per 100ml and above will be taxed at $4 per deca litre starting April 1, 2017.
This means that a can of soft drink will cost 13 cents extra. If the sugar content is below six grammes per 100ml, no tax will be imposed.
Halim, an entrepreneur supporting the move said, “Other countries are still mulling to do the same and I guess Brunei is the first country in Asean to introduce such tax.”
“This would help reduce the escalating number of non-communicable diseases such as diabetics in the country. A can of soft drink has five to eight tea spoonful of sugar and it is one of the reasons why Bruneians consume high levels of sugar,” he added.
Dr Justin Wong from the Public Health Services of the Ministry of Health on Wednesday said six in 10 Bruneians are overweight or obese and recent studies have shown that nearly 50 per cent of schoolchildren drink at least one can of soft drink (sugar sweetened beverage) a day which is increasing annually.
“This is very alarming and if it continues, all our children will be obese and overweight which in turn becomes obese/ overweight adults. It also means that our children will have shorter life expectancy. Hence, we need to protect our children, families and community. It will shift consumption with the shift towards the one with low sugar,” he added.