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92 Percent Of Children Zero To Six Months Are Not Exclusively Breastfed In Cross River, UNICEF

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has raised concern that 92 percent of children between the ages of 0-6 months are not exclusively breastfed in Cross River state.

The Chief of UNICEF Enugu Field Office, Mrs Juiet  Chiluwe stated this at a One-Day “Advocacy/Sensitisation of Women in Policy Positions and Wives of Political Leaders on Breastfeeding and the Code of Breast Milk Substitutes and Launch of Zero Water Campaign (‘Start Strong’)” held at the weekend in Calabar, said that  Nigeria’s 2018 Demographic and Health survey findings shows that Cross River exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rate for six month is only eight percent. 

She said that, “what it means is that, 92 percent almost all children between the ages of 0-6 months are not exclusively breastfed in Cross River.”

The findings according to her, also revealed that only 23 percent of babies were breastfed within one hour of birth which is not acceptable.

In view of this poor performance, Chiluwe charged stakeholders in policy making to make commitment that would strengthen and promote baby friendly policies in the state.

The UNICEF representative expressed worry that children who are not exclusively breastfed are denied the uncontested benefits that come with exclusive breastfeeding.

“The World Health Assembly (WHA) target is to increase EBF rate in the first six months of life to at least 50 percent by 2025. However, if breastfeeding trajectory continues at the current rate in the state and Nigeria, it goes without saying that achieving the WHA target will be a mirage”, she said.

Chiluwe noted that the COVID-19 Pandemic has altered the dynamics of optimal breastfeeding through its secondary effect on household livelihood and perception of its safeness for both the mother and the child and undue exploitation of the pandemic by producers of breast milk substitutes.

She stressed the need for commitment from the state government to build a generation of healthy children with few suggestions amongst others, “strengthen policy provisions that support maternity leave for six months in the public sector, and the provision of crèches as well as an enabling environment for breastfeeding in the private sector to encourage more working mothers to breastfeed their babies.    

“Increased funding to implement the zero water campaign across LGAs at a scale and intensity needed to yield the desired results and commencing and revitalizing the revised baby friendly initiative in facilities, workplaces and communities in Cross River.”

Speaking shortly after her investiture ceremony as “Nutrition Champion”, the wife of the state governor, Rev. Eyoanwan Otu , assured UNICEF of  her support and commitment to achieving the desired goal.

She promised to lead in the advocacy that support six months maternity leave for breast feeding mothers and increase funding to implement the zero water campaign across the LGAs and many more.

In their commitments, the Chairman, Cross River State House of Assembly Committee on Women Affairs, Rt. Hon. Rita Ayim and Member House Committee on Appropriation, Hon. Matins Atado , both promised to give their necessary support to promote policies on exclusive breastfeeding and nutrition.   

 Ayim stated, “today’s activity on Zero Water Nutrition for Children, if the budget from the Ministry of Women Affairs and Health comes to us and reflect on Zero Water Nutrition, we certainly will push for the approval of the budget but beyond our intervention, the appropriation committee members will have to have a bye in in whatever has been presented and the conviction that it is necessary.”

Atado, a member representing Yala II Constituency, on his part, said, “this is highly supported by us all, like my colleague rightly said, we strongly encourage the Ministry of Women Affairs to make it a major item in the budget, from our part, we will ensure that it is not cut down because, usually, when budget comes, they reduce the amount, but we have made our commitment there already to protect and support it. Zero Water, Nutrition is not a contract that you will say, reduce the amount, it is for the wellbeing of our children and of course, the future generations.

“Let me say it again that we are fully in support and we will promote it in-house with the Appropriation Chairman and other members to give it a smooth backing.” 

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