By; VITALIS UGOH, Calabar
As the world over celebrates this year’s World breastfeeding Week beginning from August 1 to 7th, 2020, it has become pertinent that the Nigerian government should as a matter of priority join in this global campaign to save the lives of children after I birth.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) and other stakeholders in the years past, have carried out aggressive campaign to save the lives of children through “exclusive breastfeeding” across the globe. This campaign, according to statistics available have yielded favourable results, thereby saving millions of children from early death.
Timely as the theme of this year is, “Support Breastfeeding For A Healthier Planet” is highly commendable, giving the ravaging world pandemic “Covid-19” which had claimed the lives of over 650,000 million people including children.
Ironically, there is no feasible vaccine for the cure of this deadly virus, meaning “there is a danger” ahead against humanity as the pandemic last.
Therefore, there is need to press home for mothers to embrace the campaign for exclusive breastfeeding across the globe to improve the health of babies around the world. This year’s theme according to stakeholders, will focus on the impact of infant feeding on the environment /climate change and the imperative to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people.
In Nigeria, the Federal Ministries of Health (FMoH) has prioritised the zero-water campaign tagged “Start Strong” zero-water Exclusive breastfeeding for a better future “.
In the face of emergencies, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to increase efforts to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding, has become even more crucial.
Scientifically, it has been proven that breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is also safe and contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses. It provides all the energy and nutrients that the infant needs for the first months of life, and it continues to provide up to half or more of a child’s nutritional needs during the second half of the first year, and up to one third during the second year of life.
Also, it had shown that breastfeeding children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. In the same vein, women who breastfeed also have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The first breastmilk called colostrum is very essential to the baby, as it protects the child from childhood illness.
However, in a random interview conducted in Cross River state during the period, “mother’s expressed their determination to see that their babes survives after birth by doing everything possible such as exclusive breastfeeding within two years r beyond “
Mrs Okoro Uwa (29).year old mother, said “this is my second child and I am feeding her with my breastmilk. You can see how healthy she looks.”.
Afiong Udoh, (Mrs) (36)years while explaining her joy giving her children exclusive breastfeeding said, “mothers and mothers to be should embrace breastfeeding as the best option to secure their babes after birth. This process will protect them from the six children deadly diseases. I have always given my four children exclusive breastfeeding “
Also speaking, Mrs. Albert Okon, a civil servant, said that “though, six months maternity leave is not enough, but if religiously feed your infant baby with breastmilk for six months, you will notice a great change. She however called on the three tiers of government to review “maternity leave for civil servants for the sustainability of exclusive breastfeeding.”.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had recommended that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed. They should be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.
It also said “mother and infant should be enabled to remain together while rooming-in throughout day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed Covod19”.
During this pandemic, WHO and Breakthrough Action Nigeria BA-N priority behavior recommends early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond and with the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary(solid) foods at six months
Significant as this year’s World Breastfeeding week is, giving the ravaging rate of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a great need for the world leaders to put their aheads together to come out with a vaccine for the cure of the virus. As it is today, there s no gainsaying that the World population have reduced enormously . The pandemic is a big threat to mothers and infants, especially in the developing countries of the world. Already, there are reports of food crisis rocking the entire world. The question is, how long shall mankind wait for the vaccine to come or shall the world leaders continuously play “politics” with lives of millions of people, What do they want to achieve etc?”.
“A stitch in time, saves nine.