Who are we?

The team behind IYCF-E is a collaborative group of academics based in Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) and Queen’s University Belfast. We are funded by the HEA North-South Research Programme.

You can read each team member’s profile in the tab (Team) above. The title of our project is Developing an Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Preparedness Plan for the Island of Ireland and the HEA funded phase of the project runs until August 2024.

What does ‘infant and young child feeding in emergencies’ mean?

Infant and young child feeding in emergencies (IYCF-E) is the comprehensive term used for the planning, protection, and support of the safe feeding of babies and young children during an emergency. 

Breastfeeding is recommended by national and international public health bodies. Where breast-milk feeding is not possible, safe feeding of an appropriate infant formula is an alternative option. During emergency situations, appropriate and evidence-based support of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) is needed quickly as the greatest risks to this group are posed by diarrhoea, infections, and malnutrition. Even in well-nourished populations, an emergency can quickly place the health of infants and young children at risk. 

Consequently, the WHO has urged member states to develop preparedness plans for IYCF during emergencies. Creating environments where women are supported and empowered to start and maintain breastfeeding has been identified as critical within government policies across the island However, recent global events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the US infant formula shortage, and fears in the UK about formula access post-Brexit, illuminate the serious challenges faced by parents and carers in sourcing the correct food for babies and young children. Families on the island of Ireland are not immune to vulnerabilities in the IYCF supply chain and so the development of an IYCF-E plan is necessary to plan and prepare for such eventualities. There is no IYCF-E plan in development, or in place, in either jurisdiction on the island currently.

What is the objective of the IYCF-E project?

The project will investigate what is needed for an IYCF-E preparedness plan that would be appropriate across the island of Ireland. Similar emergencies would likely affect both countries, being on the same island, so creating a cross-border plan is sensible. The objectives of the project are set out below.

Our Objectives

Understand the sources of professional and lay IYCF support available for families on the island of Ireland from the point of view of both recipients and providers.

‘Stress-test’ IYCF laws and policies across both jurisdictions to inform the design of the legal framework within an all-island IYCF-E plan.

Identify the hazards that threaten safe IYCF on the island of Ireland in future decades.

Develop a draft IYCF-E preparedness plan for the island of Ireland with input from relevant stakeholders.