Breastfeeding Week: Mrs. Falmata Zulum Laments Challenges Facing Exclusive Breastfeeding In Borno

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By; SADIQ ABUBAKAR, Maiduguri

Borno State First Lady, Dr. Falmata Babagana Umara Zulum has observed that Boko Haram insurgency was more of a threat and  challenge to the  progress  and achievements of the protection, support and promotion  of exclusive  breastfeeding  which results in low rate despite the attention state government has given to it in communities across the state.

She also noted that  the insurgency has  disrupted the chain of support  accorded breastfeeding as communities are displaced and health facilities destroyed since 2009  where hundreds of healthcare facilities were destroyed by the Insurgents in almost every communities having health facilities the 27 LGAs of the state. 

Dr. Falamta Zulum further said that the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is, ” Step up for Breastfeeding, Educate and Support”, which aligns with the UN SDGs and is aimed at bringing more people and organizations on board to link breastfeeding to all the major development agenda, is apt.

She was represented by the Borno State Commissioner of Women Affair’s and Social Development, Hon. Hajiya Zuwaira Gambo  on Tuesday at the flag off of the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week, which is a global campaign officially celebrated from 1st to 7th August annually to mark the anniversary of the Innocent Declaration.

She also explained that it enables stakeholders at the state level to evaluate their progress towards the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding across the state, pointing out that, the government of Governor Zulum has rehabilitated and improved 38 health facilities.

According to her, with support from development partners, health service providers have also received training to optimize their capacity to support the populace  while disclosing that a recent North East Nutrition and Food Security  Surveillance   Survey shows that Exclusive Breastfeeding rate for Borno State is now 58.9%.

The First Lady stressed that  this doubles the NDHS2018 national average of 29% representing considerable progress for the state, yet, early initiation of breastfeeding a major determinant of Exclusive Breathing remains at 44.4% translating to only two out of every five babies being breastfed immediately after birth.

She warned  that this critical gap must be addressed to achieve the states goal of 100% Exclusive Breastfeeding rate as mothers, home deliveries and infants need support and care from family to initiate and continue breastfeeding in addition to support from religious and community leaders, health systems, workplaces and government to breastfeed for as long as they desire.

While the Director-General, WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week 2022 said  as the global crises continues to threaten the health and nutrition of millions of babies and children, the vital importance of breastfeeding as the best possible start in life is more critical than ever.

“This World Breastfeeding Week, under its theme Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support, UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments to allocate increased resources to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programmes, especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency settings.  

“During emergencies, including those in Afghanistan, Ukraine, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious, and accessible food source for babies and young children. It offers a powerful line of defense against disease and all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting.

“Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses. Yet the emotional distress, physical exhaustion, lack of space and privacy, and poor sanitation experienced by mothers in emergency settings mean that many babies are missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding to help them survive.

“Fewer than half of all newborn babies are breastfed in the first hour of life, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and death. And only 44% of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months of life, short of the World Health Assembly target of 50% by 2025.

“Protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding is more important than ever, not just for protecting our planet as the ultimate natural, sustainable, first food system, but also for the survival, growth and development of millions of infants.

“That is why WHO and UNICEF are calling on governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to step up efforts to:_rioritize investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts.

“There was also the need to equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed.  

“Just as there is the  need to protect caregivers and health-care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry by fully adopting and implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, including in humanitarian settings; and  implement family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space and support they need to breastfeed.

“The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system Our goal for 2019–2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and well-being. 

 “Appropriate infant feeding can save lives and ensure optimal growth and development. I therefore urge you all to join our collective call for the support, promotion, and protection of breastfeeding,” he said.

The Borno State Commissioner of Health and Human Services, Professor Mohammed Arab Alhaji at a press conference on Tuesday held at the EOC Nursing Home Maiduguri, urged the media to collaborate with the health stakeholders in the campaigns and mobilization if women and breast feeding mother’s on the significance and benefits of breastfeeding.

He also called in CHPS of the PHC to intensive efforts in partnering with community, religious and women leaders and organizations in enlightening and educating  generally in the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for 2 and more years of children.

The commissioner further noted that in line with the policy actions advocates by the WHO-UNICEF-led  Global Breastfeeding Collective ,there is the need for all partners to invest comprehensively on breastfeeding programmes towards improved breastfeeding counselling and support for women in health facilities and the communities.

Professor Alhaji also called for an end to the promotion of breast-milk substitutes to enable parents to make informed decisions on the best way to feed their infants while disclosing that the state government has put in place firm mechanisms on ground in collaboration with  partners to improve breastfeeding rates in Borno State.

He also called for collective efforts to step up breastfeeding, educate and support families at this material time for appropriate infant feeding hence it can safe lives and ensure optimal growth and development.

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