Andy Essiet, Calabar
The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) has decried poor exclusive breastfeeding status of nursing mothers in Nigeria as over 70 percent of infants in Nigeria are denied its benefits.
However the Cross River state government has stepped up its exclusive breast feeding campaign among women with readiness to come out with an exclusive breastfeeding place for working nursing mothers as it reiterates its readiness to continue partnering with UNICEF and other relevant agencies to ensure that nursing mothers do six months exclusive breast feeding.
A joint statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the occasion of World Breastfeeding said that “in Nigeria, the exclusive breastfeeding rate is 29 percent, meaning that over 70 percent of infants in Nigeria are denied the aforementioned benefits of breast milk in their formative years.
“Only nine percent of organizations 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 percent of children Under-5, of which 21 percent are severe, and wasting among children under 5 years of age (seven percent). The continue to present severe consequences for the child”.
“Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses’ they said adding that, ” yet the emotional distress, physical exhaustion, lack of space and privacy, and poor sanitation experienced by mothers in emergency settings mean that many babies are missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding to help them survive.
“Fewer than half of all newborn babies are breastfed in the first hour of life, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and death. And only 44 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, short of the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent by 2025. Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding is more important than ever, not just for protecting our planet as the ultimate natural, sustainable, first food system, but also for the survival, growth, and development of millions of infants”.
In view of this, “UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments, donors, civil society, and the private sector to step up efforts to ” prioritize investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts, equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed.
“Protect caregivers and health care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry by fully adopting and implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, including in humanitarian settings.Implement family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space, and support they need to breastfeed”.
Meanwhile the Cross River state government is working out a law for organisations in the state to provide special nursery for breastfeeding mothers at places of work as the Director General, State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (CRSPHCD) Dr. Janet Ekpenyong said, “there are lots of things to discourage mothers from actually breast feeding their children ranging from not having time because of work, ill health, some don’t even know how to go about it and some also complain about their breast that it will drop and their physical appearances will be affected.
But we have been able to surmount some of these challenges and be able to get their buy in eventually to be able to breast feed their children exclusively. So the number that do exclusive breast feeding has increased. As at the last count we were dealing with about 25 percent but right now we should be at 35 or 40 percent and we are hoping that at the final analysis the number would have increased”.
She said, “lots of women complain of time that they have to go to work and cannot carry the child. This brings us to the challenge of organisations not having a baby friendly space that will allow mothers to actually breast feed. When you have that space mothers can easily carry their babies to work with a nanny and any little time they have they go into the nursery and breast feed the child and then go back to work”.