Fred Ezeh, Abuja
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has disclosed that Nigeria loses N18 billion to inadequate exclusive breastfeeding practices by nursing mothers.
UNICEF said a study conducted by the ministry of health last year revealed that 10 million children die of avoidable cases of childhood diarrhoea and pneumonia annually, because they were not exclusively breastfed.
UNICEF’s Deputy Representative to Nigeria, Pernille Ironside, yesterday told heath stakeholders in Abuja that many Nigerian mothers have chosen to deny their newly born babies exclusive breastfeeding, which is helpful for their mental development for different reasons. She maintained that breast milk is critical to a child’s life and the future of Nigeria, as it serves as the babies’ first immunisation and strong protection against illness and diseases.
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She said: “Breastfeeding undoubtedly protects, promotes and supports the development of the infants. Sadly, seven out of 10 children within the ages of zero to six months were not exclusively breastfed.”
Minister of health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, expressed optimistism that with the support of World Bank, plans are underway to flag off a Zero Stunting Campaign to reduce malnutrition in Nigeria.