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Minister says breastfeeding can stop 20,000 maternal deaths yearly

By Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Joke Falaju (Abuja) and Charles Akpeji (Jalingo)
05 August 2020   |   4:13 am
Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that about 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if mothers practise optimal breastfeeding.

Osagie Ehanire

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Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has said that about 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if mothers practise optimal breastfeeding.

At an event to commemorate the 2020 World Breastfeeding Day in Abuja yesterday, the minister observed that “breastfeeding benefits mothers” by helping to prevent postpartum bleeding, to support child spacing, and to lower the risk of cancers and earlier return to pre-pregnancy body weight.

According to Ehanire, breast milk, which is cheap, natural and environment-friendly, provides stronger immunity for babies and reduces childhood illnesses, as it does not draw on any resource or create pollution.

Studies show that obesity rates are 15 to 30 per cent lower in breastfed babies compared to formula-fed babies, he added.However, he regretted that despite the benefits, the breastfeeding indices in the country were below optimal.

The Federal Ministry of Health recommends breastfeeding within an hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.

“The National Zero Water Campaign was launched during the 2019 World Breastfeeding Week to educate Nigerians on the need to give babies only breast milk, and no other liquid, in the first six months of life. The campaign is ongoing in several states,” the minister noted.

IN another development, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, has disclosed plans by the National Assembly to review the National Health Insurance Authority Bill to incorporate exclusive breastfeeding.

The bill has passed third reading on the floor of the Senate and currently at the House of Representatives. “If signed into an act by the president, the bill will go a long way in improving child nutrition,” Oloriegbe stated.

THE need for media practitioners to support breastfeeding mothers has been stressed by the Taraba State Primary Health Care Development Agency (TSPHCDA).The leadership of the agency raised the concern yesterday while briefing newsmen on the World Breastfeeding Week tagged ‘Support Breastfeeding for a Healthy Planet’.

Urging the media to tread extra legitimate miles to motivate mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding, the agency stressed: “Breast milk contains all the nutrients an infant needs in the first six months of life.”Executive Secretary of TSPHCDA, Alhaji Aminu Jauro, urged the media to be ambassadors of breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is one of the most important ways of promoting the growth and development of the infant and preventing the child from getting infected with some of the common diseases that killed children,” Jauro said, adding that the agency was re-orientating health workers and communities on the benefits of breastfeeding.