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Kano women, UNICEF demand 6-months maternity leave for exclusive breastfeeding

Women and stakeholders in the maternal health sector including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have called on the Kano state...

Women and stakeholders in the maternal health sector including the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have called on the Kano state government to provide an enabling environment for continuous breastfeeding by extending the paid maternity leave period from three to six months.

The call was made on Thursday during a workshop for the sensitization of stakeholders on enabling breastfeeding environment for working parents as part of the 2023 World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action’s (WABA) World Breastfeeding Week organised in partnership with Kano State Ministry of Health and FHI360 Alive & Thrive.

The women and other stakeholders, who spoke during the interactive session, said apart from the extended maternity that they believe will help in achieving the WHO and UNICEF recommendations of 6-month exclusive breastfeeding, government should also make crèche accessible for preschool toddlers so that working mothers can continuously have access to their wards in a comfortable environment.

They also said as an alternative for the six-month paid maternity leave, the government should ensure that the next three months after resumption of duty from the existing maternity leave period be made half-day working period for nursing mothers.

They also appealed to government to sensitize men on the need to provide quality foods for nursing mothers to ensure that the breastmilk produced is of high nutritional quality.

“Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in children’s and women’s health and survival. Breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years and 20,000 annual maternal deaths from breast cancer. However, workplace limitations remain the most common reason for women to never breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, or than they want themselves,” a statement by WABA reiterated.

Earlier, the UNICEF Chief of Field Office in Kano, Rahama Farah, stressed that only 9% of organizations in the formal sector have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5% in the public sector. 

“This has to change. We need to create an environment where working parents are supported in their journey of nurturing their children while also pursuing their careers,” he added.

Similarly, the State Team Lead, Alive and Thrive, Dr. Ashiru Hamza Muhammad said importance of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized as it increases the immune, psychological and social development of the child.

“Exclusive breastfeeding within the first 1,000 days is the only investment you can make for a child to let him or her grow healthy and contribute his or her quota to the development of the country,” Dr. Muhammad said.

Earlier in his welcome address, the Kano State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Abubakar Labaran represented by the Director, Public Health, Dr. Rajab Ashiru said the best way to prevent malnutrition for children is through exclusive breastfeeding.

He added that exclusive breastfeeding provides the child with immune to fight any form of diseases such as diarrhea among others.

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