Exclusive breast feeding rate low in Nigeria

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By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos.
The provision of adequate nutrition from birth for Nigerian children will up life span and serve as the first step towards the country attaining the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030 on health.
An official of Lagos State Ministry of Health said this while expressing worries that Nigeria ranks low in exclusive breastfeeding.
“The national figure of 17 per cent in the Nigeria Development and Healthg Survey (NDHS 2013) as Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate is very low,” the state’s Special Adviser on Primary Healthcare, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga, stated at the 2016 World Breastfeeding Week commemoration press briefing in Alausa, Ikeja recently.
Onanuga also said that the Lagos State figure of 20 per cent, according to UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS 2013) is still low and calls for the collective effort of all stakeholders to address it.
He highlighted the importance of sensitizing nursing mothers, caregivers, the community, stakeholders and the general public on the benefits of breastfeeding.
He pointed out that adequate nutrition for children has to begin from the time babies are born till they attain the age of five years.
“It is important to stress that the practice of exclusive breastfeeding is one of the child survival strategies that has been proven by the World Alliance for Breastfeedin g Action (WABA), United Nations Childre’s Fund (UNICEF) and endorsed by Federal Government of Nigeria,” the special adviser disclosed.
Onanuga pointed out that babies who are exclusively breastfed are protected from severe complications arising from childhood killer diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, among others.
He described aexclusive breastfeeding and adequate complementary feeding as key interventions for improving child survival, noting that it has the potential of saving “about 20 per cent of under-five children from morbidity and mortality.”
Furthermore, he asserted that about 50 to 60 per cent of under-five mortality cases are largely due to malnutition caused by poor breastfeeding and inadequate complementary feeding practices.
Onanuga emphasized that the practice of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life and the introduction of adequate complementary diet till the first two years of life are integral part of child survival and optimal growth.
“Our future is in our hands,” he exclaimed, adding that “the provision of adequate diet to children guarantees optimal brain growth.”
It is for this reason, he narrated, that the state government institutionalized the extension of the maternity leave to six months and also introduced two weeks paternity leave.
According to him, the theme of this year’s Breastfeeding Week, “Breastfeeding:  A Key to Sustainable Development” is apt at this time when “the state is implementing interventions that will guarantee the survival of our children for an efficient future workforce.”
Onanuga regretted that statistics has shown that only 22.6 per cent of children were breastfed within one day of birth, while 25.9 per cent of children born in Lagos State are adequately breastfed.

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