By Chioma Obinna
As the world marks this year’s World Breast-Feeding Week, the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has raised the alarm that Nigeria loses no fewer than $21 billion yearly to poor breastfeeding even as it disclosed that the country stands to gain a $35 investment return for every $1 investment in breastfeeding. It also said the country loses 103,742 children to the deficit in breast-feeding.
Speaking during a two-day media workshop organised by UNICEF in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Information, and funded by UK Department of International Development, DFID, in Ibadan, Oyo State, UNICEF’s nutrition specialist, Mrs. Ada Ezeogu, explained that despite the benefits of breastfeeding which spans beyond saving lives to one of the most cost-effective investments, Nigeria loses 103,742 children annually to poor breast feeding.
According to her, the $21 dollars economic cost to the nation due to poor breastfeeding per year is equivalent of 4.1 percent of Gross National Income, GNI, cost.
“Breastfeeding is not only an investment in improving children’s health and saving lives, but also an investment in human capital development that can benefit a country’s economy. Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in global health: every $1 invested in breastfeeding generates $35 in economic returns.
“In order to meet the World Health Assembly target of increasing the percentage of children under 6 months of age who are exclusively breastfed to at least 50 percent by 2025, an additional $4.70 per newborn is required.”
Ezeogu stated that greater progress was possible with the right level of ambition and the right policies and investment; countries can fully realize the potential gains from breastfeeding.
In his opening address, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lai Mohammed, said the media dialogue was apt as the need to propagate breastfeeding in Nigerian families has become very urgent and important not only for the government of Nigeria but also for key partners and stakeholders.
“Breastfeeding will improve the health of our children and greatly benefit the community.
On his part, Chief of Field Officer, UNICEF, Akure, Tejinder Sadhu, who noted that breastfeeding has a enormous benefits for the mother and baby disclosed that an estimated 13 percent of child deaths could be averted if 90 percent of mothers exclusively breastfeed their infants for the first six months of life. “If the same proportion of mothers provided adequate and timely complementary feeding for their infants from six to 24 months, a figure 6 percent of child deaths could be prevented.
Sadhu said: Breastfeeding also benefits national economy, by helping lower healthcare costs, increase educational attainment and ultimately boosting activity. Indeed, breastfeeding is one of the most cost- effective investments available. Every dollar invested in supporting breastfeeding generates an estimated $35 US dollars in economic returns across lower and middle income countries. By contrast low breastfeeding rate translate into billions of dollars worth of lost productivity and health care costs to treat preventable illnesses and chronic diseases.
Nigeria, China, Mexico, Indonesia and India are responsible for 236,000 deaths resulting from inadequate breastfeeding. In these countries, the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding are estimated to be almost USD119 billion per year.
Reeling out the importance of breastfeeding, he said breastfed children have at least 6 times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children and an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child.