WHO, UNICEF highlight benefits of breastfeeding to children, mothers
CSOs canvass six months maternity leave in Bauchi
World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have described breastfeeding as a powerful line of defence against diseases and all forms of child malnutrition.
Meanwhile, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, Bauchi State chapter, is urging the government and private employers to domesticate WHO’s policy of six months exclusive breastfeeding, by granting mothers six months maternity leave.
According to WHO, less than 50 per cent of the babies are breastfed in the first hour of life. The Emergency Manager in North East, Dr. Richard Lako, disclosed this, yesterday, during a World Breastfeeding Week event in Maiduguri, Borno State.
Breastfeeding is an important factor, particularly in emergency settings, guaranteeing safe, nutritious and accessible food source for children, he added.
Theme of the 2022 Breastfeeding Week is ‘Set Up for Breastfeeding and Educating Support.’ Warning that “babies are more vulnerable to diseases and death,” Lako lamented that 44 per cent of infants were only exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life. “This is below WHO’s target of 50 per cent by 2025.”
He, therefore, called on donor governments, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the private sector to invest in breastfeeding and support in equipping health centres and nutritional workers, as well as counselling mothers on breastfeeding.
UNICEF Chief of Maiduguri Field Office, Samuel Sesay, asserted: “Exclusive breastfeeding plays an important role in managing the double burden of malnutrition and food insecurity.
“A study by UNICEF and the Ministry of Health in 2017 showed that inadequate and low rate of breastfeeding leads to 10 million avoidable cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia,” adding that more than 100,000 child deaths were recorded during the period under review.
He noted that the investment of N1,000 in supporting optimal breastfeeding could earn about N35,000 for the country.
Other benefits of breastfeeding include decrease in the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, depression, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and type-2 diabetes.
Breastfed infants have a decreased risk of atopic dermatitis and gastroenteritis, as well as a higher Intelligent Quotient later in life.
Borno State governor’s wife, Dr. Falmata Zulum, disclosed: “The 2018 National Demographic Health Survey revealed an alarming 75 per cent of women giving birth at home,” lamenting that the practice deprived them the opportunities for education, counselling and support by health professionals.
Represented by the Commissioner of Women Affairs and Social Development, Zuwaira Gambo, the first lady added: “With the support of development partners, exclusive breastfeeding rate stood at 59 per cent in the state,” doubling the national average of 29 per cent.
THE CSOs, while addressing newsmen in Bauchi, yesterday, to mark this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, urged the stakeholders in the state to adopt the policy to save under-five infants from acute malnutrition.
Secretary of the group, Dabis Mwalike, said that inadequate exclusive breastfeeding resulted from social and cultural beliefs, health system and commercial factors as well as poor knowledge about breastfeeding.
According to her, only about 19 per cent of children were breastfed nationally within the first hour of birth.
She said: “This varies by region across the states. In the North East, 16.4 per cent of children were breastfed within the first hour of birth. In Bauchi, it is 7.8 per cent. This is low compared to Gombe with 10.1 per cent.”
Where six months maternity leave is not possible, she canvassed the option of work from home or part-time work for breastfeeding mothers.
“All government and private institutions should provide designated breastfeeding corners/rooms to support lactating mothers to continue breastfeeding upon returning to work. Employers should allow flexible schedules for breastfeeding mothers to allow them attend to the breastfeeding needs of their babies,” she said.