About 80,000 child deaths are reported to be prevented annually when optimal breastfeeding is practised, Minister of Health, Dr Osage Ehanire, has said.
He stated this Monday in Abuja while flagging off a week-long celebration of the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week which was organised by the ministry in collaboration with Save the Children International; Alive and Thrive; and other partners.
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The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support”.
Represented by the Minister of State for Health, Joseph Ekumankama, he said breastfeeding was the foundation of child survival, health, growth and development.
He said, “It provides every child with the best possible start in life. It delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both mother and child. It also forms part of a sustainable food system. Breastfed babies have stronger immunity, reduced risk of infections and many childhood illnesses, and may also have longer term health benefits, including reduced risk of overweight and obesity in childhood and adolescence.”
The Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, said there was need to create enabling environment to support optimal breastfeeding in the country.
He further said there was need to promote breastfeeding in school, educate girls and increase engagement for early initiation of breastfeeding using local languages for dissemination; creation of breastfeeding rooms in work places and enforcement of six months maternity leave across the country, among others.
Dr Victor Ogbodo, Nigeria’s Programme Director of Alive and Thrive, said stakeholders at multiple levels needed to redouble effort on breastfeeding.
Quoting national surveys, he said the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria was 17 per cent in 2018, and that it increased to 29 per cent in 2021.
He said Alive and Thrive recently commenced the second phase of its activities in Nigeria with the Accelerating the Scale of Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition (ASMIYCN) project in Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Borno, Bauchi, Yobe and Lagos states, which resonated with the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week.
Ifedilichukwu Ekene Innocent, Chairman of CS-SUNN, called for full enforcement of the international code of breast milk marketing substitutes with monitoring mechanisms in place and implementation of the national multi-sectoral plan of action for food and nutrition at the national and state levels.