By Boluwaji Obahopo
In order to produce healthy and intelligent children, the United Nations Children Emergency Fund, UNICEF, has charged the media to step up public enlightenment on optimal breastfeeding of babies.
The organization maintained that breastfeeding provides children with the healthiest start to life, adding that breastfeeding also acts as the child’s first vaccine against all forms of diseases.
The Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Enugu regional, Dr. Ibrahim Conteh, gave the charge on Wednesday at a one-day Media Dialogue on Breastfeeding in Enugu, Enugu state.
The media dialogue was organized by the Broadcasting Corporation of Abia (BCA) in collaboration with UNICEF for the Enugu regional areas (ENUGU, CROSS RIVER ABIA, KOGI, BENUE, IMO) as part of activities marking the 2021 World Breastfeeding week. (AUGUST 1 – 7).
Dr. Conteh said the launch of ‘Nutrition for Growth Year of Action Plan’ underscores the need to transform the way the world tackles the global commitment to eliminate child nutrition.
He called on journalists to assist in educating and sensitizing the public on the need to ensure adequate breastfeeding, as no artificial products has 100 percent compared to natural breast milk, especially as regards adequate cholesterol for children.
“Mothers need to know the importance of proper breastfeeding, as breastfeeding acts as the babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses.”
Dr. Hanifa Namusoke, the Nutrition Manager, UNICEF Enugu said until malnutrition is tackled in children, the SDG goals will remain a mirage in Nigeria.
She said breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction and wondered why only human being in the specials of animals has replaced their natural milk for artificial ones.
She said malnutrition arising from less natural breastfeeding has hampered growth in the world, urging journalists to scale up advocacy on breastfeeding, as it remains the best security for infants.
” Breastfeeding contributes to improved health and well-being of mothers, both in short and in the long term. Breastfeeding contributes to mental and cognitive development and thus promotes learning.
“Breastfeeding is uniquely the rights of women, and they should be supported to breastfeed optimally.”
She however said despite improvement in the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, Nigeria is yet to meet up with the global target, “Available statistics in Nigeria reveal that the average duration of exclusive breastfeeding is approximately 3 months and only 3 out of every 10 children under 6 months of age were exclusively breastfed. This is an improvement from 17% in 2013 to 29% in 2028.
“However, this still falls significantly below the target of 50% set by the World Health Assembly to be achieved in 2025 and the SDG target for 2030.”
The Communication Officer, Dr. Ijeoma Onuoha- Ogwe said all hands must be involved in the propagation of optimal Breastfeeding, describing this year’s theme: “Protect Breastfeeding: A shared Responsibility” as apt.