From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have jointly released information detailing reasons for the high number of stunted children in Nigeria.
The UN Agencies linked the development to poor feeding of children (breast milk), especially during the formative ages.
A statement by UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, and WHO Director General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, on the occasion of World Breastfeeding Week, said Nigeria was performing poorly regarding breastfeeding, challenging all stakeholders to increase advocacy, particularly at rural communities.
“In Nigeria, the exclusive breastfeeding rate is at 29 per cent. This simply means that over 70 per cent of infants in Nigeria are denied the benefits of breast milk in their formative years.
“Regrettably, only nine per cent of organisations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, indicating that mothers lack the enabling environment to optimally breastfeed their babies. The results are high stunting rates of 37 per cent of children under the age of five, of which 21 per cent are severe, and wasting among children under five years of age (seven per cent). They continue to present severe consequences for the child. Breastfeeding acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses. So, 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 UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments, donors, civil society, and the private sector to step up efforts to prioritise breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts.
“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.
“Protect caregivers and health care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry (baby food) by fully adopting and implementing the international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes, including in humanitarian settings.”