Stakeholders partnering the Kaduna State Government to improve nutrition among women and children have described breastfeeding as an “untapped gold mine.”
The stakeholders made the observation on Friday at the Alive and Thrive (FHI 360) World Breastfeeding Week Webinar with the theme: “Enhancing Breastfeeding Practices: The Community Perspective.”
They stressed the need to harness the benefits of breastfeeding to improve the health outcome of women and children in Kaduna State and the country at large.
Mrs Chinwe Ezeife, Nutrition Specialist, UNICEF Kaduna, said breastfeeding marked an important milestone in a child’s life.
According to him, breast milk makes children intelligent, sharp and strong being the first food they consume.
She described breastfeeding as the best investment for ensuring a child’s survival and improving their health outcomes.
“Breastfeeding is environmentally friendly, readily available and does not require any cost to prepare, yet encompasses huge economic benefits for the parents, communities and the nation.
“On the other hand, Breast Milk Substitute (BMS) contributes negatively to the health, survival, growth and development of the child as well as the health of the planet.
“UNICEF remains committed to the health, growth and development of children and women through the promotion of optimal breastfeeding as critical component of Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) practices.
She explained that the measure was part of efforts to boost access to key nutrition messages to ensure that mothers and caregivers in communities adopted optimal IYCF beginning with breast feeding.
Earlier, the Project Director of Alive and Thrive (FHI 360) in Nigeria, Mr Victor Ogbodo, pointed out that only 35.9 per cent of newborns in Kaduna state are put to breast within an hour of birth.
This, according to him, means that 64.1 per cent of newborns are deprived of essential nutrients and antibodies that protect infants from early child diseases.
“The longer breastfeeding is delayed the higher the risk of death in the first one months of life.
“We have a gold mine before us in the form of breastfeeding; we need to exploit it for the benefit of our women and children toward building a developed nation and a healthier planet.
“Therefore, our collective efforts must be channeled toward harnessing the immense benefits of breastfeeding to address infant and child morbidity and mortality,” Ogbodo said.
Also speaking, the wife of the Kaduna State governor, Mrs Aisha-Ummi El-Rufa’i, described exclusive breastfeeding as a “critical” component of IYCF that should be promoted.
El-Rufa’i, the Chairperson of Kaduna State Emergency Nutrition Action Plan (KADENAP), reiterated the state government’s commitment to ensuring optimal breastfeeding practices in the state given its numerous benefits.
Gimba explained that production of BMS involves the use of tin, plastic, feeding bottles and other containers which end up contaminating the environment with accompanied health risk to the child.
“It is, therefore, highly encouraged for mothers to embrace optimal breastfeeding not only for the healthy growth and development of the child, but for environmental safety,” he said.
Also speaking, Malam Hamza Ikara, Deputy Director, Primary Health Care, Kaduna State Primary Health Care Board, said that the board had directed health workers to include exclusive breastfeeding promotion in all their activities.
“It is also part of our quarterly meetings with Ward Development Committee Chairmen in the 255 political wards of the state to create the needed awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding.
“Similarly, six months maternity leave is equally being implemented in the state for working mothers in the state civil service as part of efforts to promote exclusive breastfeeding,” he added.
The moderator of the webinar, Dr Zainab Muhammad-Kwaru, Project Manager, World Bank Supported Accelerating Nutrition Result in Nigeria, advised that the gesture should be extended to the private sector.
Mr Silas Ideva, the Coordinator of Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) in the state, said that the coalition would continue to work with community structures to promote exclusive breastfeeding practices.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that religious leaders equally shared their experiences on how they were encouraging breastfeeding practices during prayers in churches and mosques.
Edited By: Mufutau Ojo) (NAN)