By Rita Iliya, Minna.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday in Minna said that about 6.2 per cent of children in Niger State were not exclusively breastfed by their mothers.
Mrs Chinwe Ezeife, Nutrition Specialist UNICEF Kaduna Field Office, made this known at the inauguration of the 2022 Niger State Zero Water Exclusive Breastfeeding Campaign.
The campaign was organised by the state Primary HealthCare Development Agency in collaboration, with UNICEF.
The World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from Aug. 1 to 7, as a global initiative and the biggest annual event worldwide for the breastfeeding movement.
Ezeife said that inadequate and low rates of breastfeeding caused more than 10 million avoidable cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia, which led to more than 100,000 deaths in Nigeria.
She said that the Nigeria Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2017 also showed that about seven, out of every 10 children between the ages of zero and six months, were not exclusively breastfed in the country.
Ezeife said that inadequate breastfeeding was responsible for more than 100,000 child deaths, translating into almost N18 billion in future economic losses for the country.
She called on government and stakeholders to strengthen policies that supported maternity leave for six months in the public sector to encourage breastfeeding among women and improve child survival and development.
Dr Amina Bello, wife of the state governor, said that breastfeeding was important in managing the double burden of malnutrition and inequalities
“Breastfeeding provide nutritional bonding avenue between mother and child. Therefore, this campaign should be taken to every household for women to exclusively breastfeed within six months,” she said.
Bello urged the public to carry the message on the importance of breastfeeding to every household, to create awareness and sensitisation on the need to engage in six months exclusive breastfeeding.
She also called for continued breastfeeding, with appropriate complementary food, for up to two years and beyond.
Dr Ibrahim Dangana, Executive Director, Niger State Primary Healthcare Development Agency (PHCDA), said that the campaign on breastfeeding would be carried to 25 local government areas and 274 primary and secondary centres across the state.
Mrs Bolanle Oyebola, Project Director, Plan International Nigeria Accelerating Nutrition Result in Nigeria, said that they were implementing nutritional value among women to ensure children had access to cost-effective nutrition.