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Exclusive Breastfeeding: UNICEF Lists Benefits To  Nursing Mothers, Child

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – United Nations Children’s fund UNICEF, has stressed the need for nursing mothers to embrace exclusive Breastfeeding method and 0-6 months  water practice, saying it is critical to long term health and wellbeing of both mother and child. 

The international child friendly Organization, frowned at a situation where a huge number of nursing mothers do not optimally breastfeed their children, describing exclusive breastfeeding as a powerful life saver.

Mrs. Ngozi. Onuoha, Nutrition Specialist, Unicef  Field office, Enugu, stated this while speaking at a media dialogue ahead of the 2023 World Breastfeeding week, and Zero Water Campaign organized for the four states of Anambra, Benue, Cross River and and Enugu by Unicef.

The Nutrition Specialist, who also stood in for the Unicef Chief of Field office Enugu, Mrs. Juliet Chiluwe, emphasized that breastfeeding is equally the foundation for childs survival, hence nursing mothers must always embrace it.

She hinted that  only 38% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months, pointing out  that the laxity contributes to about 800,000 child deaths yearly.

According to Mrs. Onuoha, “The practice of feeding babies extra water, in addition to breast milk, is common in Nigeria. 

“This is harmful as extra water not only introduces illness- causing pathogens, but also reduces the child’s thirst and effective suckling.” 

The Nutrition Specialist, who disclosed that breast milk contains 70- 80 percent of water, observed that over the years, the exclusive breastfeeding rate had shown only marginal increase from very low rate of two percent in 1990 to 17% in 2019 as reported by the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey.

She noted that “The zero water campaign, therefore, promotes giving babies breast milk only on demand day and night and stopping the practice of giving water and other liquids and foods from the moment of birth through the first six months of life, so as to achieve the World Health Assembly global breastfeeding target of 50% by 2025”.

Earlier, Dr. Ijeoma Onuoha Ogwe, the UNICEF Enugu Office Communications Officer, had enjoined the media to set agenda for public discourse on zero water campaign on exclusive breastfeeding practice.

She posited that every working nursing mother should enjoy six months of maternity leave with assurance of job security.

Dr. Ogwe said: “Practicing breastfeeding at work makes societies work, as it provides vital health and nutritional benefits for children with positive lifelong impacts, building healthier populations and workforces for the future.

She added that: “Women should not have to choose between breastfeeding their children and their jobs because exclusive breastfeeding is possible regardless of workplace, sector or contract type.

The Unicef Communications officer stayed  that  Also, effective maternity protection improves children’s and women’s health and increases breastfeeding.

Dr. Ogwe, insisted that “All women everywhere, no matter their work, should have at least six months paid maternity leave, paid time off for breastfeeding and flexible return to work options”

In her remark, Executive Sectetary, Anambra State primary Health Care Development Agency, (ASPHCDA), Pharmacist (Mrs), Chisom Uchem, said the state under governor Chukwuma Soludo’s watch,  gives priority attention to the health sector, adding that as a state, they promote exclusive breastfeeding practice  and 0-6  zero water campaign.

Our Correspondent writes that the two day  event was put together by ASPHCDA in collaboration with Unicef Field office Enugu, while  the theme for the 2023 World Breastfeeding week which comes up in August is, Enabling Breastfeeding: ‘Making a difference for working parents’


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