At least 103,742 children died in Nigeria annually as a result of inadequate breastfeeding, according to the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF).
UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Ada Ezeogu disclosed this at a 2-day Media Dialogue on Breastfeeding and Global Breastfeeding Collective held in Ibadan, Oyo State, as part of activities marking the World Breastfeeding Week.
The media dialogue was organized by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with UNICEF and sponsored by the Department for International Development.
Ezeogu said “the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in children below the age of six months is only 17 percent, which means that at least 5.4 million children each year do not get the powerful health and immunological benefits of breastfeeding.”
She explained that when cognitive losses and health costs are added in, inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to cost the Nigerian economy $21 billion per year, or 4.1 percent of its Gross National Index (GNI).
According to her, in a country with a high under-five mortality rate and high birth rate, inadequate breastfeeding leads to 103,742 child deaths each year which in turn translates into almost $12 billion in future economic losses for the country.
Ezeogu enumerated the necessary actions and steps required to enhance successful breastfeeding and charged health care providers to give adequate attention to issues of breastfeeding.
In his remarks at the media dialogue, The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohummed charged the media to step-up public enlightenment on optimal breastfeeding of babies to prevent infant mortality and produce healthy and intelligent children.
The Information Minister who was represented by the Assistant Director, Child Rights Information Bureau, Mr Olumide Osanyinpeju urged journalists to assist in educating and sensitizing the public on the need to ensure optimal breastfeeding of infants.
The Minister said it has become very necessary to propagate optimal breastfeeding in the country and that government and all stakeholders must take necessary actions propagate optimal breastfeeding.
According to him, “there is need for all to rise up for the propagation, as early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death. Government alone cannot fight this cause, hence, the need for collaboration with agencies, NGOs and other partners and organizations to advocate on how best to address the issue.”
In his remarks, the UNICEF Chief of Akure Field office said this year’s edition of the annual world breastfeeding week with the theme “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” was a significant event to promote breastfeeding.
Tejinder said breastfeeding helps provide children with the healthiest start to life. He explained that breastfeeding also acts as the child’s first vaccine by providing antibodies.
His words “Breastfed children have at least 6 times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child.”
UNICEF Communication Officer, Mrs Blessing Ejiofor said the dialogue was aimed at creating opportunities for informed media advocacy on breastfeeding and issues of children’s well-being and survival in Nigeria.
According to her, “the dialogue is to provide journalists with more information and materials to hold government accountable to its responsibility to promote breastfeeding”
UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr Geoffrey Njoku said the dialogue was designed to equipped journalists with necessary information through in-depth and analytical presentations on the subject matter to prevail on the government to expedite action on low level of breastfeeding in Nigeria.
Njoku said “there is need for aggressive reportage on breastfeeding with focus on increasing government funding to increase the rate of breastfeeding in Nigeria.”
Also, the Assistant Chief Nutrition Officer at the Federal Ministry of Health, Mrs Rakiyat Idris said the federal government has put necessary policies in place to support family development and that the government would not relent in promoting optimal breastfeeding.