Wednesday, 27th September 2023

UNICEF, WHO decry 29% breastfeeding rate in Nigeria 

By Anietie Akpan (Calabar) and Waliat Musa (Lagos) 
07 August 2022   |   3:30 am
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have decried the poor exclusive breastfeeding status of nursing mothers in Nigeria, as over 70 per cent of infants are denied its benefits.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have decried the poor exclusive breastfeeding status of nursing mothers in Nigeria, as over 70 per cent of infants are denied its benefits. 

A joint statement by UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell and WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the occasion of the World Breastfeeding Week, said that, “in Nigeria, the exclusive breastfeeding rate is 29 per cent, meaning that over 70 per cent of infants in Nigeria are denied the aforementioned benefits of breast milk in their formative years.
“Only nine per cent of organisations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, indicating that mothers lack the enabling environment to optimally breastfeed their babies. The results are high stunting rates of 37 per cent of children under five, of which 21 per cent are severe, and wasting among children under five years of age (seven per cent). These continue to present severe consequences for the child.

As part of efforts to scale up the practice, health experts have implored mothers to not only exclusively breastfed their babies for six months, but also continue breastfeeding the babies for two years, though with complementary diets because of the huge benefits to both the children and mothers.

They gave the advice at an enlightenment programme on the importance of breastfeeding to the child and the mother as part of activities marking the week in Ikorodu, Lagos.
The Medical Health Officer, Ikorodu West Local Council Development Area, Dr. Opeyemi Osunyomi, said the yearly celebration of the week provides a reminder that breast milk is very nutritious and a defense for babies because it contains all the nutrients a baby needs to grow well at the tender stage.

The Health Financing and Advocacy Specialist, Save the Children Inspiring Project, Folake Kuti, said breast milk prevents children from falling sick including coming down to pneumonia. She noted that when a child is malnourished such child’s immunity will be low and can easily fall sick to many diseases including pneumonia. 
An Assistant Chief Nursing Officer, Ipakodo Primary Healthcare Centre, Olayinka Ogunbiyi, encouraged over 200 mothers invited for the programme on importance of breastfeeding their babies exclusively for six months and the need to continue for two years with other complementary diets.

Meanwhile, the Cross River State government has stepped up its exclusive breast-feeding campaign with the readiness to come out with an exclusive breastfeeding place for working nursing mothers.

The state also reiterates its readiness to continue partnering with UNICEF and other relevant agencies to ensure that nursing mothers do six months exclusive breastfeeding. 

According to the Director General, State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCD), Dr. Janet Ekpenyong, the state government is working out a law for organisations to provide special nursery for breastfeeding mothers at places of work.

She said: “There are lots of things to discourage mothers from breast feeding their children, ranging from time because of work, ill health, some don’t even know how to go about it and some also entertain fear that their breast will drop and their physical appearances may be affected. 

“But we have been able to surmount some of these challenges and be able to get their buy-in eventually to breast feed their children exclusively. So the number that does exclusive breast-feeding has increased.

“As at the last count, we were dealing with about 25 per cent, but right now, we should be at 35 or 40 per cent and we are hoping that at the final analysis the number would have increased.”

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