Civil society organisations, under the aiges of Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) and Save the Children, in partnership with the Federal Ministry of Health, have called for more women participation and engagement in exclusive breastfeeding.
The organisations said the rate of exclusive breastfeeding, which the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) in 2018, put at 29 per cent, remains significantly below the target of 50 per cent set by the World Health Assembly (WHA) to be achieved in 2025.
The executive secretary of CS-SUNN, Mrs Beatrice Eluaka, told journalists at an event to mark the 2021 World Breastfeeding Week tagged: “Women leaders as change agents for exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria”, that the task of meeting the 50 per cent target is a national assignment and needs the support of everyone.
She said, “We are using this medium to remind everyone that we all have a responsibility to work together to ensure that we reach or even exceed the World Health Assembly target of 50 per cent by 2025.
Eluaka said, “the government has a responsibility to ensure that we have family-friendly policies that are in place to make sure that every Nigerian is aware and is equipped with the correct information to enable them protect and support exclusive breastfeeding”, adding that exclusive breastfeeding provides both the child and mother with great health and economic benefits.
Head of nutrition, Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Binyerem Ukaire, in a presentation on “The nutrition situation in Nigeria”, noted that breastfeeding is panacea for child malnutrition and also the most effective way to ensure child survival and good health outcomes, as malnutrition is the underlying cause of more than 50 per cent death in under-five children in Nigeria and worldwide.
On her part, chairman, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, FCT chapter, Dr Florence Uchendu, while delivering her keynote address, said that breastfeeding practices, including exclusive breastfeeding, would improve the nutritional status and health outcome of Nigerians and also improve the neurological development of the child leading to increased productivity and economic advancement of the nation.
Uchendu urged women at all levels to encourage and motivate pregnant women to register and attend antenatal care, prepare expectant mothers to be psychologically prepared and enthusiastic for exclusive breastfeeding, become role models and EBF advocates.