UNICEF advocates six-month maternity leave to protect children
The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) Chief of Field Officer in Maiduguri, Phuong Nguyen, has advocated a six-month paid leave to facilitate exclusive breastfeeding of children in a friendly environment.
According to her, breast milk is a complete, inexpensive, and readily available food and nutrition with great benefits for children, women, and the nation.
Nguyen spoke, yesterday, in Maiduguri, while flagging off the 2021 World Breastfeeding Promotion Week to protect breastfeeding children in Maiduguri, the Borno State capital.
She said: “The turnout today leaves no one in doubt that breastfeeding is a lifeline for millions of our children.
“Supporting new mothers to breastfeed exclusively for six months is the best method of child nutrition in these critical times.”
She disclosed that breast milk contains antibodies that boost immunity of children, adding that “breast milk is also an important indicator of short and long-term health benefits for children.”
“Research has indicated that children, who receive exclusive breastfeeding for, at least, six months have a higher brain power.
“This is a shared responsibility of all stakeholders and governments to provide a friendly environment for women to support children,” she said.
On dividends of breastfeeding: Nguyen declared: “Investments by families, communities and governments in healthcare, protection and education of children pay the most dividends for children exclusively breastfed for, at least, six months.
“We must promote breastfeeding practices and get more children exclusively on breast milk for at least six months,” stating that the state government and private sector are to ensure the survival of conflict affected children in the state. She urged for improvements on existing childcare policies in the private and public sectors.
“Despite COVID-19 pandemic with increased food insecurity and dwindling incomes; households must look inwards by investing in breast milk substitutes,” warning that families’ resources were being depleted while struggling to survive.