Over the years, Nigeria has joined more than 170 countries to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week, a weeklong series of activities from August 1 to 7, every year.
This year’s commemoration was aimed at informing people about the links between breastfeeding and the environment/climate change, anchoring breastfeeding as a climate-smart decision, engaging with individuals and organizations for greater impact and galvanizing action on improving the health of the planet and people through breastfeeding.
The theme of this year’s celebration is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet,” which focused on the impact of proper infant feeding on the environment and to garner support for breastfeeding for the health of people and planet.
At a Press briefing in Abuja to commemorate the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week, The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, said the lives of an estimated 20,000 children would be saved if nursing mothers would strictly observe six-month exclusive breastfeeding. The minister stated this during a Ministerial Press briefing to commemorate the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week in Abuja.
The minister expressed dissatisfaction that the breastfeeding indices in Nigeria are below optimal despite the benefits accruing from exclusive breastfeeding practice. According to him, the National Demographic and Health Survey of 2018 showed that 97 per cent of children were breastfed at one point or the other but only 42 per cent were put to breast within an hour of birth while the proportion of children that had exclusively breastfeeding within their first six months was a mere 29 per cent.
He quoted a publication by WHO, on breastfeeding, that “scaling up breastfeeding practices to almost universal level could prevent an estimated 823,000 annual deaths, or 13·8 per cent of all deaths of children younger than 24 months. Breastfeeding also provides health benefits to mothers, by helping to prevent postpartum bleeding, support child spacing, lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and earlier return to pre-pregnancy body weight. An estimated 20,000 maternal deaths could be prevented annually if optimal breastfeeding were practiced,”.
While making his remarks, the Minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunmibe Mamora, noted that apart from being the most single cost-effective intervention for saving infant lives, improving the health, social and economic development of individuals, breastfeeding helps to lower the risk of hypertension and diabetes.
Earlier, CS-SUNN Executive Secretary, Beatrice Eluaka, in a goodwill message tasked nutrition stakeholders on designing clear messages that will enlighten mothers to effectively and efficiently breastfeed their babies even in the face of COVID-19. She urged government to improve funding for nutrition and implementation of the plans of action for nutrition in order to protect Nigerian children and the future of Nigeria.” A child that is exclusively breastfed is intelligent, not prone to illness and therefore reduces hospital visits to spend money. The money can be channeled to other uses in the family so the benefits are numerous. We need to protect and promote breastfeeding. CS-SUNN is ready to proffer solutions to ensure that Nigeria achieves the collective goal of getting to the 50% World Health Assembly target for breastfeeding very soon”, she said.