By Linda Ike
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) have decried the Nigeria’s poor breastfeeding statics which shows that over 70 percent of infants are denied the benefit of breast milk in the their formative years thereby leaving exclusive breastfeeding rate at 29 percent.
In a joint statement by the Organisatíons to commemorate the 2022 World breastfeeding week, they said, this has resulted in high stunting rates of 37 percent of children under 5, of which 21 percent are severe and wasting among children under 5 year of age (7%).
UNICEF’s Executive Director, Catherine Russel and WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on Government and donors to step up resources allocations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programmes especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency settings.
They expressed concern that only 9 percent of Organisatíons have a workable breastfeeding policy, indicating that mother’s lack enabling environment to breastfeed their babies optimally..
“Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses”
“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”, the organisations stressed.
They emphasised the need for Government to equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills needed to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed.
They further advocated implementation of family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space, and support they need to breastfeed.