By Kadiri Abdulrahman
Abuja, Aug. 3, 2019 Health experts and other stakeholders on Monday, urged Nigerian mothers to practise a minimum of six months exclusive breastfeeding of infants to enable them to grow into strong and healthy adults.
The experts made the call in a webinar organised by Alive and Thrive (A&T) in collaboration with Federal Ministry of Health to commemorate the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2020.
Alive and Thrive is a global nutrition initiative to save lives, prevent illness and ensure healthy growth and development through improved maternal nutrition, breastfeeding and complementary feeding practice.
Dr Victor Ajieroh of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the 2020 world breastfeeding week was remarkable and dwelt on the importance of breastfeeding to the environment.
He said that there was the need for countries to promote exclusive and optimal breastfeeding as a way of protecting the planet.
“It is a great pleasure for the Gates Foundation, working with the government of Nigeria, to support, protect and promote breastfeeding in Nigeria as part of the commemoration of the WBW.
“Two things are remarkable and noteworthy about this year’s celebration. The first is the theme that is connected to sustainable development.
“The COVID-19 pandemic with its associated disruptions and impact on life is another factor that necessitates us to support mothers with the right information on breastfeeding,’’ he said.
Ajieroh said that the present rate of exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria stood at 29 per cent, and expressed optimism that achieving the target of 50 per cent by 2025 was feasible.
Dr Simeon Nanama of UNICEF noted that the 2020 world breastfeeding week came at a time when the world faced the challenges of climate and the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that the theme of the 2020 commemoration “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet,’’ was relevant in highlighting those global challenges.
“The theme, “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet’’ is remarkable because it is coming at a time when the world faces two major challenges, climate change and the VOVID-19 pandemic.
“It shows the important role breastfeeding can play in solving these global challenges .
“It is cheering to note that Nigeria has made steady progress in exclusive breastfeeding, having moved from 17 per cent to 29 per cent in the last few years.
“The 50 per cent target for 2025 is achievable,’’ he said.
The Director of Family Health at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, said that women that exclusively breastfed their children were contributing to a healthy environment.
She said that exclusive breastfeeding of infants for the first six months played a major role in raising a crop of intelligent youths that would provide purposeful leadership in future.
Anas-Kolo called on all women and men to continue to support and promote exclusive breastfeeding through advocacy and sensitisation.
Dr Uche Ralph-Opara of Alive and Thrive said that the organisation had, in the last few years, supported some states in Nigeria through survey to establish the status of exclusive breastfeeding.
She said that findings showed that many mothers believed that due to hot weather, their infants needed to supplement breast milk with some quantity of water.
“The breast milk contains 80 per cent water, so the infants can get all the water they require at any point in time from breast milk,’’ she said.
The webinar drew participants from the academia, NGOs, government and other stakeholders.
WBW is a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanise action on themes related to breastfeeding.
It is celebrated between August 1 and August 7 every year in commemoration of the 1990 Innocent Declaration.
In line with this year’s theme of the event, WHO and UNICEF have called on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counseling.