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Coronavirus – Nigeria: Going mobile to combat misinformation, including on breastfeeding

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, misinformation about the nature of the disease and what needs to be done to avoid it is rife. Some of the misinformation circulating is about breastfeeding. Mothers who wish to practice it are confused.

Perhaps surprisingly, the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria is low – one of the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa.  Even before the pandemic, 70 percent of Nigerian infants were not being breastfed – thereby missing out on the potentially lifesaving protection provided by exclusive breastfeeding.

Misinformation about COVID-19 has now been added to the mix of factors impeding exclusive breastfeeding.

Like other breastfeeding mothers, Blessing, 45, has had a tough time making sense of what the COVID-19 pandemic means for her and her baby’s safest and healthiest meal, breastmilk.

COVID-19 has already taken away her main source of income, shutting down the market where she used to eke out a living selling vegetables. She can hear the cries for food from her children and struggles to keep them occupied, especially with schools closed. She has many questions about this frightening virus that is keeping everyone indoors, and it’s hard to know where to find the answers.

Blessing gets second-hand information from the other women, and her children get an eyeful on social media. But it’s hard to sift the truth from the falsehoods, as COVID-19 has brought with it a wave of rumour, mixed messages and deliberate misinformation across Nigeria.

“I don’t know whether it is safe to breastfeed, or whether I would risk transmitting the virus to my baby,” she said.

 – Ijeoma Onuoha-Ogwe, Communication Officer, UNICEF Nigeria

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UNICEF Nigeria.


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